Yvonne Wightman was eating pancakes and strawberries for breakfast at her daughters Cary home when she realized she would have a visitor that day: her doctor.
Wightman, 97, doesnt have to travel for routine medical care. Her doctor comes to her.
Dr. David Fisher of Doctors Making Housecalls has been caring for Wightman for more than two years.
Its a growing trend for doctors to care for patients at home, where routine exams and some specialized tests can be done. Patients information is tracked and updated with a tablet computer.
When Fisher joined Doctors Making Housecalls in 2010, he was one of eight physicians. But the group has grown.
Since Dr. Shohreh Taavoni and her husband, Dr. Alan Kronhaus, opened the Durham-based practice in 2001, the group has expanded to 40 staff physicians who have made more than 55,000 visits to patients in the Triangle, Triad and Charlotte areas.
Doctors Making Housecalls is one of 15 practices and three consortium programs selected to participate in a Medicare Independence at Home Demonstration.
The three-year study that involves 10,000 Medicare recipients with chronic conditions could show that delivering health-care services at home provides a higher quality of life for the elderly and saves money by reducing hospital stays and emergency-room visits.
Jannet Conner, Wightmans daughter, hopes medical housecalls will help keep her mother at home longer.
I am more comfortable with Mom being where I know she is getting care, said Conner, who teaches piano lessons in her home and is able to check on her mother frequently.
When Wightman had pneumonia earlier this year, Fisher visited on nights and weekends to deliver medicine and treatments.
Those doctor visits cost less than a hospital stay, and Wightman was able to remain in the comforts of her home.
Hospitalization is often a tipping point from which some people never recover, Fisher said. Even a three-day stay in a hospital can result in profound weakness.
Fisher wrote a book titled How to Keep Mom (and Yourself) Out of a Nursing Home. It includes strategies for maintaining independence, along with assessments to help determine if someone is in the early stages of cognitive impairment.
Its a team effort to keep an elderly parent home, said Fisher, who completed his geriatrics training at Wake Forest University and lives in Cary with his wife and six children. In addition to a group of specialists, its important to have a family member working as an active health advocate.
Conners three brothers dont live nearby. That leaves her to advocate for her mom.
Based on advice of home-care specialists, Conner sets a daily schedule for Wightman. She organizes daily physical-therapy exercises and activities from a speech therapist to keep her moms brain active.
The hardest part is getting Mom out of bed, Conner said. I try to remember what a privilege this time God has given me to spend with my mom.
For Fisher, having the opportunity to develop relationships with patients by treating them in their homes is one of the reasons he became a doctor.
Faith helps me have an open mind in treating the elderly with respect, he said. I pray with the patients who ask and often learn as much from them as they do from me.