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The House Call is Back in Style

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Posted at 11:17 AM, May 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-29 09:06:41-04

star-sponsored-native The following article is sponsored by University of Utah Health Care.

By Natalie Dicou

She’d given birth less than a week earlier and was home in South Jordan with her new daughter and toddler son. The last thing Allyson wanted to do was pack everyone up and head into the clinic for a newborn well-child checkup.

And she didn’t need to. Instead, a doctor went out to her place, and more specifically, to her kitchen table, where tiny Claire was examined by Kerry Whittemore, M.D., a pediatrician at University of Utah Health Care’s South Jordan Health Center.

“When they said they would just come out, I thought ‘this is really cool, so much more convenient for a brand-new mom,’” Allyson said. “It’s a lot of work getting ready to leave the house, let alone with a newborn and a two-year-old.”

During a home visit a baby gets the same exam she would receive at the clinic without the exposure to germs and without an extra charge. The doctor and an assistant bring a scale and can even do blood work if needed. It’s also a great time for parents to ask questions.

“The parents, who are obviously exhausted, are more comfortable at home so you get better information,” Whittemore said. “You feel like you’ve really made a strong connection with them because you get to see the whole picture. It makes our job easier and their experience better so it’s a win-win.”

South Jordan Health Center also offers virtual visits for some appointments. Meet with your doctor online, Skype-style, from your couch, your bedroom, even your backyard hammock. Of course, a full physical isn’t available virtually, but for many dermatology and mental health appointments, patients have an option to skip the drive and go the virtual route if they’ve already established themselves as a patient.

Newborn home visits and virtual visits are just a few of the innovative ways the clinic is working to make life easier on moms and dads.

For parents who have an in-clinic appointment for themselves or their children, the center offers free child care — and it’s not just a receptionist keeping an eye on the kids while Dad gets his prostate exam. The clinic has partnered with the University of Utah’s Center for Child Care and Family Resources to provide professional caregivers trained in early childhood development, CPR and first aid. Caregivers lead kids, ages 18 months to 8 years, in activities and crafts.

“Parents love it,” Whittemore said. “We have a lot of families that are pretty large in size. If they have four kids, we can put three kids in daycare and just see the sick kid, or if they’re all getting exams, we can switch the kids out.”

With each child getting his own time with the doctor, parents can focus and talk with the physician about their concerns without worrying about keeping their kids occupied, Whittemore explained.

The patient-friendly services are evidence of a seismic change in the way health care is delivered.

“The health care system has been built around the convenience of the provider so we are shifting that and blowing up that model and making health care more convenient for the patient,” said Michael Bronson, director of South Jordan Health Center.

Busy moms like Allyson welcome the transformation.

“When I told my friends the doctor was doing a house call, they all thought it was the greatest thing in the world and wished their doctor did it too,” she said.

Baby Claire, who’s just getting settled into her new home, seemed to approve as well. Her checkup revealed she’s healthy. A pediatrician may pay her another kitchen-table visit when she’s two weeks old. On that day, the only thing her mom will need to do to prepare for the checkup is to open her front door.