Knock knock: Health care at your door

(BPT) - Paul Engwall has always been good about going to the doctor for his regular checkups.

“I thought I was healthy,” he said. But he received some concerning news during a visit from a HouseCalls nurse practitioner.

HouseCalls, a program available through Engwall’s Medicare Advantage plan, provides an annual in-home health and wellness visit from the convenience and privacy of home. During Engwall’s exam, the nurse practitioner identified an abnormal finding in a screening test. Further testing led to the discovery of an abdominal aortic aneurysm that was dangerously close to rupturing.

“I thought, wow, this is not good,” Engwall said, realizing the condition could be life-threatening if not treated very soon.

One hallmark of a HouseCalls visit is the amount of time the health care practitioner spends with individuals — typically around 45 to 60 minutes or more, considerably longer than a standard doctor’s appointment. They talk through medical history, health status and any specific concerns.

HouseCalls health care practitioners gather important health information, including which preventive services have been received and which are still needed. These visits are meant to support and not replace visits to the individual’s own doctor, and results are shared with his or her primary care physician for follow-up and care coordination.

Like Engwall, Frank Chavez also saw his doctor regularly. But having received HouseCalls visits in past years, he also appreciated the annual checkup in the privacy of his living room. During a visit earlier this year, the nurse practitioner expressed concern about his slow heart rate and encouraged him to see his doctor for more testing right away. Chavez took her advice and learned his heart was stopping regularly. He had a pacemaker installed and credits HouseCalls with giving him “a new lease on life.”

In 2012, the first year the program was offered to UnitedHealthcare members, the company completed 262,000 HouseCalls visits, and today, more than 5 million people have benefited from the service.

“Preventive care is so important for maintaining good health as we age,” said Dr. Efrem Castillo, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “The time our nurse practitioners take with each individual patient differentiates HouseCalls and helps us deliver on our commitment to compassionate, quality care.”

Engwall believes he might not be alive today were it not for his HouseCalls visit.

Today, Engwall is taking advantage of his good health. Since recovering from the surgery to repair his aneurysm, he’s been tuning up his guitar – he plays in a band – and his golf swing. “I see my golf game improving,” he said with a laugh.

To learn more about Medicare Advantage plans that include HouseCalls, visit UHCMedicareHealthPlans.com.

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Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

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