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Story #22Physician HousecallsOklahoma, OK

When my parents and a brother passed away, I was in a situation where I could get them the right level of care at the right time. But I knew I was unique.

High insurance premiums, expensive co-pays, hurried doctors – these are issues many Americans think of when talking about the national health care crisis. Some people, however, have a much more practical problem: they simply have no way to get to the doctor’s office. EMS and hospitals are their only option for even basic primary care. “It’s a revolving door, a revolving cycle of chronic disease cases,” says Hank Ross of Physician Housecalls. “In the olden days, the doctor would come to your home, but we got away from that.”

Ross has a vision to bring those days back, and his recently launched Physician Housecalls is off to a strong start. The company brings personal, compassionate medical care directly to the homes of bedridden and immobile patients living in retirement communities and private homes. His physicians provide many of the same services as a doctor’s office or hospital, administering x-rays, lab work, and prescription refills.

Treating the patient in-home is more convenient, comfortable, and dignified for the patients and their families. Just as importantly, it allows doctors to assess lifestyle issues. “Our physicians see the patient in their domicile,” says Ross. “We can look in the kitchen of a patient with congestive heart failure, and if we see a pantry full of salty canned soup, we can address those issues.”

Physician Housecalls employs two doctors, two nurses, and a physician’s assistant. They are currently seeing upwards of 80 patients, a number Ross expects to triple this year. As word of his company spreads through Oklahoma, and as prospective patients learn that Medicare often covers the service, demand is growing rapidly. “Oklahoma is short 3,000 physicians.” Hank Ross is on it.

Photos by Shaul Schwarz

  • Prior to joining Physician Housecalls, nurse Tandye Ryans was the director for a multi-specialty clinic for 18 years.

  • Hank Ross, Dr. Joe Witten, and nurse Tandye Ryans of Physician Housecalls making the rounds.

  • “The husband cares for his bedridden wife 24 hours a day, seven days a week," explains Ross. "So we have doctors seeing both of them at their home, giving them medicine, talking with them almost daily.”

  • Hank Ross tells the story of an elderly couple under his care. “I was amazed at this older man, who is not in the best of health himself, caring for his wife, who has severe Alzheimer’s disease. He lives to care for her.”

  • Dr. Joe Witten outside a patient's home.

  • “There are times it is difficult when it may be toward the last year of their life," acknowledges Witten. "But it’s also rewarding, because it’s not just about helping the person who is sick but about helping the whole family.”

  • “Compassion is the key," says Hank Ross, describing a guiding principle of his business. "Many times we are the only outside visitors for the entire week.”

Q & A

Hank Ross spoke with us after finishing the rounds.

Tell us a little bit about your background, how you got into this work and started your business.

Well, I ran hospitals for fifteen years and I started a home care company about twelve years ago called Ross Healthcare where we do hospice care, home health care, and private duty care. Physician Housecalls is relatively new. It’s been about two and a half years in the making. It takes about a year and a half to get situated with Medicare to see patients so we started seeing patients this summer. It’s always risky and scary to start a business, but it’s a risk reward system. The needs are great, and the rewards could be very prosperous just because of the demographics of our community and what we’re trying to do.

What other services do you provide?

The doctor certainly is the most important part of this service, but we’re also finding that the second most important person is a social worker.  The home-bound patients don’t know how to find the right government assistance or know what’s available in their community. So by seeing these people in their homes, what kind of family dynamics are involved, and what kind of social economic dynamics are involved, we’re not only treating the patient, we’re treating the whole family. And by doing those things the patients are having great outcomes, they’re very happy, and that’s what we’re trying to address with Physician Housecalls.

What’s the dream here?

I want to be a part of the solution, not the problem with our health care. Sustainability.  Physician Housecalls is going to do this remotely where there’s a computer with a camera and a screen and the physician can be any place and visit remotely with those patients. The capability is there today and it’s phase two of our program. The governor put me on the licensing board here in Oklahoma. Very soon for patients at high risk for readmission, we may not have to send a doctor to their home. We could do that through a video device. We send a home care company out there and through their computer the physician can make a visit with the patient through video.

There’s an app for that? 

Yes, it’s called Doc Stats, and it’s on your iPhone. You buy their app and you input your medical information.  When you want to see a doctor – healthy people who they want to see a doctor – you tap your app and for fifty dollars they’ll put you in face to face contact with a physician, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because what people have realized is, 37 percent of the people who go to the doctor, to a doctor’s office, can be treated electronically through video. This is where health care’s going. This is where we’re going to help manage chronic disease patients through tele-health. We’ll go their home, we’ll put them on a computer, we’ll put them on a video screen. And there’ll be a doctor back in his/her office who’s assessing the patient. It’s very exciting, and it’s very cost effective. It’s part of the health care solution, not the problem.

Business Details

Proprietor: Hank Ross
P.O. Box 12553 Oklahoma, OK 73157
PH: 405-896-8058 / Website
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