Housecall Providers Celebrates 25th Year in OR

PORTLAND, Ore. -- This year marks the 25th anniversary of a unique program that provides in-home care for some of Oregon's most vulnerable residents.

Housecall Providers has expanded to three programs since it began in 1995. At any given time, its primary-care arm serves 1,500 to 1,600 patients. It also has about 120 hospice patients, and provides community-based palliative care for 150 people with serious but non-life-threatening conditions that require wraparound services.

Chief executive Rebecca Ramsay said staff is on call for patients' serious needs.

"If the patient has the flu or is having any kind of exacerbation of their chronic illness, we can make urgent visits as well," she said. "So the difference there is that we're going to the patient on an urgent basis, instead of the patient having to come to an office setting."

In 2017, the nonprofit community-benefits company CareOregon acquired Housecall Providers.

The program's primary-care medical director, Dr. Pamela Miner, said they serve homebound elderly Oregonians, people coping with physical or developmental disabilities, and those with medical or behavioral health challenges. She said the ability to provide house calls allows them to care for so-called "super-utilizers" -- the handful of Medicare beneficiaries that makes up the majority of hospital visits.

"We help prevent expensive trips to the hospital and unnecessary nursing-home stays," she said. "Not only does this set a new standard for the quality of care that patients can expect at home, it improves patient health outcomes, lowers health-care costs and improves the care team's satisfaction as well."

Miner said her team takes COVID-19 precautions on home visits and uses teleconferencing as much as possible.

In 2012, Housecall Providers began participating in the federal Independence at Home demonstration, a Medicare shared-savings model. Still, Ramsay said it's hard to remain financially viable and the program relies on donations. She said home-based service is an option many people want, and it is likely to be in even greater demand as the population ages.

"There's a lot of work to do," she said, "in order to really make sure that the health-care financing system is coming along with us in the recognition of the value of this type of care."

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Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR

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