Dr. Daniel Oates knew what time it was. His patient, Roberta Baskerville, 92, prefers that he not visit when “The Price Is Right” is on. But there he was, arriving at the Dorchester home that Baskerville has lived in for half a century and rarely leaves, just as the TV show was airing.
Baskerville’s son, Elliott, had called Oates this spring, concerned about his mother’s cough. Oates sent a technician to administer a chest X-ray in the home and found pneumonia. Baskerville improved with antibiotics, and Oates visited recently to check on her progress, taking notes on his laptop in the kitchen while the television flashed silently nearby.
Oates is a Boston Medical Center geriatrician who makes house calls, part of a cadre of physicians nationwide who serve a growing need of homebound seniors. He believes home visits provide more personalized, consistent care to people who might not otherwise see a doctor and can prevent hospitalizations or delay a move to a nursing home.
Now the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in a program created under the newly-affirmed Affordable Care Act, is looking at the Boston program and 15 others to see whether they also can save money. Advocates hope the results will persuade more doctors to begin seeing patients at home.
Elliott Baskerville said he is certain his mother, who has severe arthritis, would have ended up in an emergency room without intervention by Oates. For decades, she avoided doctors and would have put off seeking care for her cough, he said.
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