Home visits to the housebound patient in family practice: a multicenter study. Israeli General Practice Research Network.
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BACKGROUND: Most countries today are experiencing an accelerated pace of population aging. The management of the elderly housebound patient presents a special challenge to the family physician. OBJECTIVES: To investigate a series of home visits to housebound patients, the therapeutic procedures used, the equipment needed, and the diagnostic conclusions reached. METHODS: The details of 379 consecutive home visits to housebound patients were recorded by 91 family doctors serving 125,000 patients in Israel. RESULTS: The average age of the patients was 76.1 years. The vast majority of the visits were during office hours (94%). In 24.1% it was the doctor who decided to make the home visit on his/her own initiative. The most common initial reason for a home visit was undefined general symptoms, but the doctor was usually able to arrive at a more specific diagnosis after the visit. Medications were prescribed in 59.1% of the visits, and in 23.5% the medication was administered directly by the physician. The commonest drugs used were analgesics and antibiotics. In 19.3% of visits no action at all, other than examination and counseling, was undertaken. The equipment needed included prescription pads (73%), a stethoscope (81%), sphygmomanometer (74.9%), and otoscope/torch (30.6%). Only 15% of visits resulted in referral to hospital. CONCLUSIONS: Home visits to housebound patients serve as a support to caregivers, provide diagnostic information, and help the family with the decision as to when hospitalization is appropriate. The specific medical cause for the patient being housebound had little effect on the process of home visiting.
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