Company now in Austin revives the practice of making house calls


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist Erin Coker

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 6:30 PM

AUSTIN -- Doctors making house calls. It may seem like a thing of past, but one company -- now here in Austin -- is reviving that form of medical practice.  It's called Mobile Doctors.
The majority of Mobile Doctors patients are elderly or home-bound.  In short, people who have difficulty getting to and from a doctor's office. In addition to doctors coming to them -- patients with Medicare, Medicaid or other health insurance never have to pay for the service.

At first glance, Priscilla Martinez exam looks routine.  However, another look reveals this doctor's visit is taking place inside her home.  The 87-year-old couldn't be more grateful.

"I can't explain it, but it's wonderful," said Martinez.  "It's a lot of help to me."

Doctor Ashley DiMeola and medical assistant Art Hinejosa are part of Mobile Doctors.  5-doctors, 3-podiatrists and their assistants make up the team.  Each doctor travels the streets of Austin seeing -- on average -- 15 patients per day.

"By coming out to the home we see these little changes every month," said DiMeola.

DiMeola says these visits allow Mobile Doctors to provide something the patient's primary care manager can't.

"Where they may only schedule every three months, but really only get seen twice a year," said DiMeola.  "They miss appointments, because they don't have a ride, or they feel really terrible that day and just really can't make it out of the house."

Patients like 62-year-old disabled U.S. Army Veteran Pedro Vargas.  With no immediate family to care for him, Vargas had to depend on public transportation to get to and from his primary care visits.  Mobile Doctors has eased that burden.

"They come to my house," said Vargas. "I don't have to go up there. I'm a disabled person, and it's real hard for me to get transportation sometime to go to a doctor.  It's better to get it here at home."

Unlike most doctor appointments -- these visits frequently end with a hug -- something DiMeola and Hinejosa don't mind at all.

"Patient hugs are fairly common," said DiMeola.

And on this day there are plenty of hugs to go around.

"I'm very, very happy," said Martinez.  "I appreciate what they do to me."

Patients never have to file any insurance paperwork.  Mobile Doctors handles all of that. Mobile Doctors currently operates in Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Texas.  Currently it has operations in Austin and San Antonio.  It will begin operations in Houston and Dallas next year.