Number of Homebound Patients Expected to Rise
November 25, 2015
In 2011, a study found that two million elderly Americans were homebound. According to the Journal of the American Medicine Association, these Americans leave their homes on the rarest occasions, and can spend at least a month in their home without leaving. According to the study, 5.6% of the senior Medicare population was completely or mostly homebound in 2011. Only 12% of homebound Americans said they received primary care services in their homes, even though many need them.
The U.S. News Health Care Index says that “services for seniors are growing as the baby boomer population ages into Medicare, the government-sponsored health care for seniors. As the group ages, the number of homebound Americans is also expected to rise, presenting a problem for Medicare.” The US Census Bureau predicts that by 2050, there will be 83.7 million people in America who are over the age of 65. This projected population of seniors is almost double of what it was in 2012.
NPR reported that “In 2013, about 2.6 million Medicare claims were filed for patient home visits and house calls. That’s up from 2.3 million visits in 2009 and 1.4 million visits in 1999, according to Medicare statistics.” There are also about 50% more homebound seniors than there are seniors living in a nursing home, and many of these homebound Americans may live alone. Homebound Americans are likely to have less education and income than other Americans. Due to this problem, doctors are emphasizing how important it is to offer healthcare services inside the patients’ homes.
Physicians like Dr. Roberta Miller, who spoke with NPR, specialize in providing healthcare for homebound patients who are too old or too sick to visit a doctor. Dr. Miller says that when doctors make house calls, they get a comprehensive view of their patients. Doctors can see their patients’ home environments, and see if they have a support system. Doctors can also see which pills their patients are taking, and if they need a new prescription. Few doctors go into home care because the compensation is low, especially with travel costs. With the Affordable Care Act, Medicare patients who were disabled and older than 64 saw an increase in their reimbursements in 2014. Dr. Miller saw an increase in requests for home physician services that year because Medicare patients were able to afford the in-home physician care that they needed. Many patients needed to be treated for multiple medical and psychosocial issues. The patients could not afford in home medical care before, so their health issues piled up.
Doctors who provide in-home care to their patients can use card scanning technology to help their patients. With card scanners, doctors can just scan a patient’s ID to put them into a digital database. Instead of asking the patient to fill out a form, which they may struggle to do, doctors can use the patient’s government issued ID to quickly gather accurate information. Doctors can also use card scanners to gather information about their patients’ Medicare plans. With card scanning technology, doctors can gather accurate information and provide the comprehensive care that their homebound patients need.