Could the Doctor's "House Call" be Making a Return to CNY?

Sep 17, 2015

Dr. Christian Knutsen shows some of the equipment he'll be using when he makes house calls to patients in the eastern suburbs.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

  For most Central New Yorkers, a house call from a doctor has been unheard of for decades.  Now, the practice might be making a come-back.  Upstate University Hospital is embarking on a trial effort to bring a doctor to the front door of residents in the eastern suburbs.  The seed was planted about three years ago when the Fayetteville Fire Chief asked Dr. Christian Knutsen how they could avoid unnecessary ambulance trips to the hospital.

"He had his paramedics driving the ambulance for cuts, colds, and coughs...things that probably don't need emergency level care, but they didn't have anywhere else to go.  They didn't know who else to call, or other people couldn't see them, or the couldn't get to the ER otherwise, and they'd call the ambulance.  How do we stop that."

Knutsen didn’t have an answer.  He had noticed during his six years in emergency medicine at Upstate University Hospital that patients were waiting to be seen for relative non-emergencies like mild lacerations, a cough, or a sprained ankle.  After a while, the idea for a house call practice was born.  Knutsen is now Medical Director for Upstate at Home, which is aimed at helping people at where they’re most comfortable…

"People are getting older, they're at home more often, home longer.  Both parents work, so one parent is home with the kids, it's just different now.  So maybe taking the care back to them is more convenient, more useful for folks.  Our equipment's changed.  I can now carry with me suture trays, nosebleed trays, medications, and IV fluids to treat people in the house."

The equipment includes crutches and the familiar "black bag."
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Knutsen says that's where people are most comfortable.

"Your couch, your TV, your kitchen.  If you're feeling bad, you don't want to be on a gurney in an ER.  With the house call, we'll keep you more comfortable, at ease.  It's easier than having to travel, wait, and get taken care of."

  Knutsen says house calls are not only easier on the patient, they also free-up fire department paramedics and firefighters for true emergencies…

"Ties up an ambulance, ties up a crew for an hour to two hours.   Take someone down to an ER, wait to unload them, and come back in service.  In that time, things happen."

Like car crashes or fires.  Knutsen will be on call to serving DeWitt, Fayetteville, Minoa, most of Manlius, Kirkville, Chittenango, and parts of Cazenovia and East Syracuse.  He says if program works, that coverage area could expand as more doctors and nurse practitoners join in. 

Upstate at Home participates with most major insurance companies, and your plan’s deductibles and co-pays will apply.  The number to call is 464-4646.