The days of doctors toting black bags and treating patients in their living rooms may quickly be giving way to World Wide Web sites and disease-management companies. But at least one doctor is still making house calls.
Robert Kaplan, M.D., of the Edgewater Medical Center in Chicago visits patients through his "House Calls are Back" program, which allows disabled and elderly Chicago residents to receive care in the comfort of their own homes.
"My responsibility as a doctor is to do everything I can for my patients seven days a week, 24 hours a day," says Kaplan, who started his program one year ago.
"I think it's a beautiful program," says Evelyn Carter, a resident of Chicago's North Side whom Kaplan visits at her house once a month. "Before he started it, I had to pay my niece $20 to come take me to the doctor, and a lot of times I didn't feel like going because my foot hurt, so this has helped me 100%"
In addition to offering patients a full physical examination, Kaplan works with third parties to set up home-based medical procedures such as X-rays and echocardiograms. Kaplan's services are covered by commercial insurance and Medicare plans.
Edgewater Medical Center is compiling data on the number of patients who have taken advantage of the program since its inception.
Kudos to Kaplan for bringing the black bag back into medicine--let's hope other physicians will heed the call.
HMO rage. This is one of those cases: You know it was completely inappropriate for the Methuen, Mass., cardiologist to leave profanity-laced messages on an HMO's corporate answering machine--but you know exactly where he was coming from.
On July 20, the state Board of Registration in Medicine suspended the medical license of Albert Ghassemian, claiming he was "unstable and potentially violent" after he left messages with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, calling employees "criminals" and threatening to "beat (them) to death."
Ghassemian has admitted making the calls, but he claims he meant no harm and was simply frustrated with the healthcare bureaucracy.
The state's chief administrative magistrate, Christopher Connolly, ruled on Aug. 16 that the doctor's threats were inappropriate but "hollow" and recommended Ghassemian get his license back.
Connolly sympathizes with the hot-headed doctor. In his ruling Connolly wrote: "He expressed frustration at today's modern methods of communication (incommunication), when one is unable to speak to a real person on the telephone but continually reaches a recording device, which apologizes for being unavailable and directs you to leave a message."
Star docs. To prove that he really does know more about healthcare than his opponent, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore trotted out his son-in-law, Andrew Schiff, M.D., at an event at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles two weeks ago.
Schiff is married to Karenna Gore Schiff, the eldest daughter of the vice president and his wife, Tipper Gore. Schiff told the 100 or so gathered at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel that he was "thrilled" to be asked to participate in the Aug. 16 briefing, which was co-sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and Families USA, a consumer advocacy group.
Schiff practices primary-care medicine at 2,278-bed New York Presbyterian Hospital. "I know my father-in-law will fight for a patient's bill of rights, so physicians and patients can make decisions about care, not HMOs," he said, to applause.
"Every time I see a family coming into the (emergency room) three times a week to get asthma therapy for their child, it breaks my heart," Schiff added.
Following Schiff at the podium was a man who isn't a doctor, but plays one on TV--Anthony Edwards, one of the stars of the hit drama series "ER."
About Schiff, the balding Edwards quipped: "He really does look like a real doctor, doesn't he? Too much hair, though."
A beer is a beer. In terms of attendance, the media lounge sponsored by the Chicago-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and BellSouth at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago beat out its counterpart at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia last month. The Democratic version drew an average of about 2,400 visitors a day, compared with the Republican daily average of about 1,600.
Of course, as is so often in politics and healthcare, there was a catch within the numbers: Convention organizers allowed the Democratic lounge to stay open about three-and-half hours a day longer than the Republican lounge, according to Blues association spokesman Bill Pierce. Why? No real reason other than different host committees from the association have different rules.
However, there was no surprise as to the most popular beverage among members of the media attending the lounge: Pierce estimated that the fourth estaters guzzled about 900 bottles of free beer a day at the Los Angeles convention, and the media imbibed about 600 freebie bottles at the GOP convention.
Outliers suspected as much, particularly when a lounge bartender could only manage a stoic nod when asked if the brew was moving briskly. That may be why the aspirin-laden first-aid kits distributed at the lounges were also popular-Pierce said about 8,000 were snapped up during the two conventions.