Dr. Veronica Lo Faso founded the Medical House Call Program in 1998 as a means of bringing primary care to homebound and immobile older adults. Dr. Lo Faso is the program's medical director; Deirdre Mole, a Gerontologic Nurse Practictioner, joined in March 2000 as administrative director. Funded in part by the Schnurmacher Foundation, the program brings the medical resources of a primary care setting into the homes and lives of those elderly who might otherwise lack them.
The program is run from the Irving Sherwood Wright Center on Aging, a geriatric primary care facility. Dr. Lo Faso and Ms. Mole make scheduled house calls to elderly residents living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Currently, approximately 80 patients are enrolled in the housecall program; most have had no other access to medical care for a variety of reasons, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, or dementia. Many had been using the emergency department for primary care. The patients are referred from several sources including the Burden Center for the Aging and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. Word of mouth also plays a significant role in generating interest.
Dr. Lo Faso and Ms. Mole are often accompanied by medical students, interns, and fellows interested in or involved with geriatrics. As Ms. Mole says, this is part of the process of "geriatizing" these personnel; it gets them into a home setting and exposes them to community-residing seniors. The student Geriatric Interest Group sends one student per week, and because of the uniquely enjoyable nature of the Program's work, "they never call in sick," according to Ms. Mole. Substantial expansion of the program is planned with the awarding of a geriatric education grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
"What's great is walking into a client's home and becoming part of their life. It's a private and sacred space that you walk into," says Ms. Mole, "and I hear wonderful stories [from the patients.]"
The Medical House Call Program is just one example of how the Wright Center and the Cornell Weill Medical College's Division of Geriatrics is using innovative approaches to bring health care for older people from the hospital to the community. For more information, please contact the Wright Center.