UnitedHealthcare has now provided more than 5 million in-home clinical visits through its HouseCalls program, bringing potentially life-saving preventive care to people enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans in the comfort of their homes.
Since UnitedHealthcare introduced HouseCalls in 2012, the program has helped tens of thousands of seniors avoid potential hospital admissions by identifying health concerns and enabling earlier clinical intervention. This estimate is based on a 2015 RAND study that found people who'd received a HouseCalls visit had up to 14 percent fewer hospital admissions as compared to people who had not participated in the program.1
In addition, 8.5 million care opportunities, such as overdue cancer and diabetes screenings, have been addressed after licensed health care practitioners identified them during HouseCalls visits.
Through HouseCalls, people enrolled in most UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans, including group retiree and Dual Special Needs Plans, can receive an annual wellness check-up in the privacy of their home, at no additional cost. HouseCalls health care practitioners use patient-specific clinical data on electronic tablets to help address people's health needs.
A typical visit lasts 45-60 minutes, considerably longer than a standard doctor's appointment, allowing ample time for a physical exam and a conversation about the patients' health status and any health concerns or questions they might have. The health care practitioners review medications, arrange for certain tests and screenings if needed, and assess living conditions and social needs. They can also make referrals to disease management programs and medication therapy management programs included in people's health plans that can help them manage chronic conditions and take their medications as prescribed. In 2017 alone, HouseCalls visits resulted in 680,000 such referrals.
HouseCalls supports and complements a doctor's care, but does not replace it. The visits conclude with a review of topics people should discuss with their primary care doctor. A summary of the visit as well as any test results are provided to people's doctors to facilitate care coordination and any necessary follow-up care. The 2015 RAND study found that physician office visits increased by up to 6 percent in the year following the HouseCalls visit.
Preventive care and regular monitoring are critical to managing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and enable potentially catastrophic health issues to be detected early, when they are usually easier to treat. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that just half of adults age 65 and older are up-to-date with screenings for chronic conditions, immunizations and other preventive services.2
UnitedHealthcare regularly hears from people whose lives have been profoundly affected by the HouseCalls program.
During a January 2018 HouseCalls visit with Frank Chavez, 76, of Louisville, Colorado, a nurse practitioner expressed concern about his slow heart rate and encouraged him to contact his doctor immediately. After taking her advice, Chavez discovered he needed surgery to install a pacemaker. He credits HouseCalls, available through his UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan, with giving him "a new lease on life."
Paul Schuster, 69, of Theresa, Wisconsin, says he isn't "a doctor-going person" but agreed to a HouseCalls visit through his UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan at his wife's prodding. The HouseCalls nurse practitioner identified high blood pressure and convinced him to see a doctor. He was ultimately diagnosed with lung cancer, but it was caught early and he has completed treatment. According to his wife, "Paul wouldn't be here today had it not been for the HouseCalls program; I'm confident of that."
UnitedHealthcare has significantly expanded the availability of HouseCalls to people enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans since introducing the program in 2012, when 262,000 home visits were completed. This year, the company expects that number to grow to more than 1.4 million. Over that same period, the network of HouseCalls-employed clinicians has grown from 350 across 25 states to more than 1,700 across 45 states and the District of Columbia.
"We're focused on evolving HouseCalls to enhance its value both to the people we serve and the broader health care system," said Brian Thompson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement.
As part of a pilot program in Tennessee and Hawaii, UnitedHealthcare recently began providing bone density scans during HouseCalls visits for women who have suffered a fracture to help identify those who are at increased risk of suffering another fracture. The company also recently began using HouseCalls visits as a way to identify when social determinants of health, such as access to nutritious food and safe transportation, could be compromising people's health, and then refer those individuals to additional programs and services to help address any unmet needs.
More information about HouseCalls is available at UHCHouseCalls.com.