How a HouseCalls visit changed – and may have saved – one man’s life

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(BPT) - A knock on the door at Roy Gault’s home may have saved his life.

Roy, who is in his late 70s, was feeling fine when nurse practitioner Diana Dombrowski showed up at his home for a HouseCalls visit.

Mentally and physically, Roy felt sharp, and the last thing he thought he needed was an in-home health and wellness visit. But little did he know, he was on the brink of having a stroke or heart attack.

For UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members like Roy, HouseCalls is a yearly, in-home health and wellness clinical service — a check-in care visit that comes as a health plan feature, at no additional cost. The visit helps members stay on top of their health and well-being between doctor appointments.

During the visit, a licensed physician or nurse practitioner will review an individual’s medical history, answer questions, perform a physical exam and offer a health screening. These visits also give HouseCalls licensed health care professionals the opportunity to assess the social, emotional and environmental needs of a member that usually cannot be assessed in a clinic setting.

On a typical day, Diana spends around 45 minutes to an hour with each person, taking the time to discuss concerns and answer questions.

“Having that time is so unique and important,” Diana said. “We have the time to help people feel comfortable opening up. And we have the time for that coaching, advocacy and wellness education.”

Why prevention matters

For Roy, it started as a routine visit. Diana explained the purpose of the HouseCalls program and its benefits and noted that on the surface, Roy appeared to be quite healthy.

“He wasn’t exhibiting any concerning physiological symptoms,” she said.

However, that quickly changed.

During the exam, although Roy wasn’t feeling dizzy or lightheaded, his pulse registered very low. Then, she took his blood pressure and it was very high.

“Combined with his pulse rate reading that was concerningly low, right there, I stopped the visit. I told him, ‘We need to get you to urgent care or the ER right now,’” she said.

Diana moved into action. She called urgent care first and reported what was going on. The triage nurse recommended heading straight to the emergency room. Diana called the ER to give them the background on Roy’s situation.

Empowering positive outcomes

On Diana’s advice, Roy got in the car with a friend who drove him to the ER.

“When we got there, the hospital staff were waiting for me because Diana had called them and explained the urgency of the circumstances,” he said. “Immediately, I was admitted and worked on.”

Roy had, indeed, been dangerously close to a major stroke or heart attack and stayed in the intensive care unit for three days.

When Diana called to check in a week later, Roy explained he was now seeing a cardiologist and set up with a primary care provider.

“It felt so good to know that he had that continuity of care in place,” she said.

Speaking about his experiences, Roy said, “I have encouraged so many people I know — my family, my circle of friends — about the importance of this preventive care,” he said. “What you see in the mirror might not be what’s going on. It’s your life, you need to preserve it.”

“You can feel well and be fully functional,” Diana said, “but there are things happening beneath the surface that can put you at such high risk for a major event that can change the rest of your life.”

Benefits, features and/or devices vary by plan/area. Limitations and exclusions apply. HouseCalls may not be available in all areas.