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It used to be that all health care was performed in the home. Crude though it was, everything from the common cold to the bubonic plague was treated in the homes of individuals. If you were lucky, the person treating you had a little training.
Ironically, today’s health care is increasingly resembling those early days, except with the help of hundreds of years of knowledge and a lot of technology.
The medical profession as we know it today is only a couple hundred years old. In the early days, the doctor, dentist and barber were often the same person. And it wasn’t that long ago that the house call was commonplace, with the town doctor visiting the homes of his patients and instructing people how to care for a sick family member.
Sometime during the 1900s, that dynamic disappeared and we were going to clinics, hospitals and doctors’ offices for our health care. Doctors became more specialized, with increasing demands on their time, and people started moving to the suburbs and living farther apart. These dynamics made house calls difficult.
So, we became acquainted with the waiting room and the joys of reading old magazines. We left our health care up to the professionals, and rarely performed any treatment or monitoring ourselves, outside of colds, coughs and flus.
Then, toward the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, we started taking more responsibility for our helath. While this didn’t necessarily mean health care at home, it did mean a greater emphasis on diet, exercise, and other things we did on our own to try to be more healthy.
A pivotal point in home health care occurred in 2010, when President Obama and Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. The long-term ramifications of this law are still being debated, and may not be known for years. One thing is clear, however, whether it is a result of the law or simply coincided with it: health care is coming back to the home.
Insurance companies are limiting doctors’ visits and increasing co-pays and premiums. Plans that include health savings accounts are on the rise. Consumers are responsible for larger portions of the expense of their health care.
As a result, they are doing more on their own. This includes self-diagnosing using the Internet and purchasing home medical devices to monitor and treat their conditions. Today, a wide variety of devices, including pulse oximeters, blood pressure monitors, nebulizers and more are available on the consumer market - for affordable prices.
Time will tell if this trend will continue, but it seems likely that home health care is experiencing a renaissance and that consumers have more options to make it easier and more affordable.