He’s an 89-year-old doctor, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, and he is now fighting a battle on another front. Doctor house calls to the poor and elderly, which he makes at little to no cost to patients.
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The Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure recently granted Dr. Frazier Landrum a reprieve that lets him continue practicing medicine in one of the state’s poorest communities, in the town of Edwards, reports the Goldwater Institute, which represented the doctor in his fight with the state. WYAB 103.9 FM, a local talk radio station, is now leading a fundraising effort to help refurbish the local post office into an office for Dr. Landrum, where he can keep patient records and possibly see patients who may be able to visit an office. Dr. Landrum is the only doctor in Edwards, Mississippi.
“If I don’t help these people, they won’t be able to get medical care at all, and they could lose their jobs or their home. I can’t let that happen,” says Dr. Landrum, who at times drives as far as 50 miles to see as many as three patients a day in their homes.
But a bureaucrat with the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, apparently seeking to justify his or her position, thought house calls violate some arcane state law that few likely read, and demanded that Dr. Landrum not only stop seeing patients, but also that he forfeit his medical license. When he stood up, the board, of course, made a formal inquiry into his practice. The conclusion: Dr. Landrum keeps his practice, so long as he takes a course in medical record keeping.
“Dr. Landrum will be able to go back to what’s important, helping patients,” said Christina Sandefur, an attorney with the Goldwater Institute in a statement.
Guess what: though house calls went the way of the Mad Men ‘50s era, they are making a comeback. Reason: The baby boom is turning into the senior boom, creating an elderly, housebound patient population who know full well that going to the hospital can make you sick, given rampant MRSA staph infections, among other issues.
Plus healthcare reform is encouraging new health care business models that reward reduced hospital admissions and support what are called “Patient-Centered Medical Home” (PCMH) pilot projects. It’s a trend that was in the making prior to health reform.
In fact, according to federal data for Medicare part B billings, house calls nearly doubled to 2.3 million in 2009, from 1.4 million a decade earlier. Veterans Affairs also has a successful home-based primary care program for senior vets.