A health care organization in Henderson, Kentucky is reviving a tradition likely to make many people feel better, not just in theory, but in actual medical terms.
Dogs don’t usually announce the start of a medical appointment, but barking dogs on the front porch are a typical greeting for Nurse Practitioner Crystal Buchanan when she makes a house call to see Susan Turner in the Henderson County community of Cairo.
"Susan, how are ya?” Buchanan asks as she opens the front door.
Home Medical Visits are "God Sent"
Buchanan finds Turner, 63, sitting in a wheelchair at the kitchen sink, washing dishes.
“You sound like you don’t feel good,” Buchanan says to Turner.
“I’m just tired,” Turner replies.
“I’m going to get your blood pressure and stuff, OK?” Buchanan says.
Turner says she has COPD, is on oxygen 24/7, and has congestive heart failure.
“I don’t know what I’d do without Miss Crystal here. She’s a sweet lady," says Turner. "I’m not able to go to the doctor like I want to, so this is just God sent to me.”
Buchanan says has been coming to treat Turner at home for the past few months.
"She hasn’t been to the hospital since I’ve been coming," says Buchanan. "That’s a huge deal, 'cuz she was in the hospital all the time with her breathing and stuff. So I can come out and give her antibiotics if she needs ‘em, steroid shots if she needs ‘em. I'm also treating a wound on her leg."
At Methodist Health in Henderson, Care Coordinator Tiffany Allison arranges for follow-up treatment after patients are discharged from the hospital. Allison says the hospital began the Methodist at Home program in May to meet patient needs.
“We found that patients are having a hard time getting transport," said Allison. "A lot of them aren’t driving, and a lot of them just physically can’t get out. So even if they have family, it’s just too much to get ‘em out.”
Meeting People at Home, and Better Meeting Their Needs
Amy Scales, clinical manager for the Methodist Health Physician Group, oversees the home visiting program.
“We have many patients that end up with frequent hospitalizations because they just can’t get to the doctor’s office and their conditions decline and then they end up as an inpatient in the hospital," says Scales. "So instead of that we want to be able to reach them at their home, and treat them just as if they were in one of our physicians’ clinics.”
Buchanan works at the Methodist Health Family Medicine clinic in Sebree in Webster County three days a week. She says one day a week she treats patients in their homes.
“When they come into the office, you don’t realize what kind of home environment they live in, or what kind of dangers they might have, or lack of food or shelter or heat, those sorts of things, so it gives you a better chance to meet their needs,” says Buchanan.
One of the regular home visits Buchanan makes is in the Union County town of Morganfield to see Tom and Phyllis Antonini.
Tom, 71, is a former coal miner who has black lung and COPD. He says he and his wife are on a tight budget, it’s a 20-mile drive to Henderson to go to the doctor, and the cost of gas adds up. So he appreciates the home visits for him and his wife.
"Oh, I think it’s great," Tom says. "If you’re like us and just can’t afford to take off and what have you, why where else can you get medical treatment and not have to leave home?”
Phyliss Antonini, 69, had several brain surgeries, and a stroke. She says Buchanan takes the time necessary to check out all of her concerns.
"She boosts my spirits and she does more than any doctor or nurse," says Phyllis Antonini. "You go to the doctor’s office, they listen to your heart, and you’re done and out the door.”
Phyllis Antonini says a home visit from Buchanan has more healing benefits than just the medical details.
“She has compassion and she’s like what the Rev. Billy Graham said, she has a warm heart and a listening ear and a lot of ‘em don’t have it any more,” says Phyllis Antonini.
After the home visit with Tom and Phyllis Antonini, Buchanan heads back out on the road, driving past fields and woods to see another patient, then another.
Buchanan often drives 100 miles a day to see four or five patients in rural communities, bringing them medical treatment, along with her warm heart and listening ear.