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This doctor's never in, and that's a good thing

By Dr. Ernest Brown

A few months ago, I got a call from a family who was visiting Washington, D.C. for the weekend. They were excited to tour the city, but everything was put on hold when their ten-year-old son woke up with severe abdominal pain.

His parents were concerned that it might be appendicitis, but they didn’t know any doctors in the area. Upon receiving the call, I went directly to their hotel with a medical kit and pocket-sized ultrasound.
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After a brief evaluation, I diagnosed a form of gastritis and treated the boy with antacids. Soon after, the family resumed their holiday.

As a medical student at Howard University, I originally planned to become an emergency medicine physician. During a third-year clerkship, I was mentored by one of the foremost house call doctors in the country. This defining experience led me to see that some of the greatest gifts bestowed upon a doctor are the opportunity to care and the duty to serve.

With this passion, I focused all my training on preparing myself to give back to the community by providing house calls to various types of patients with a particular focus on the elderly and disabled. The pursuit of equitable health care continues as a house call doctor in areas defined by the lowest socioeconomic and the greatest health disparities in Washington, D.C.

In 2015, I had been making house calls for nine years and decided to create “Doctors To You” to break through the barriers and to bring medicine back to its roots: into the hands of the people who need care and those who care enough to provide it. In a sense, Doctors To You is more a movement than a business.

House calls used to be incredibly common. Some of my geriatric patients still remember the name of their doctor who would make house visits.

There are numerous benefits for both the patient and provider. It’s private and convenient for the patient. And for me, I can see the environment in which the patient lives, which is integral to a patient’s health. I find that I can do more in one house call than I could do in years in a clinic.

In recent months, I’ve been using a portable ultrasound called Vscan Extend from GE Healthcare. It’s light, fits in my pocket, and enables me to make focused assessments and accelerate treatment decisions at the point of care.

It was particularly useful during an appointment with a woman, who was fifteen-weeks pregnant. She had woken up in the middle of the night to discover she was bleeding. Her husband was traveling, so she was alone and frightened.

I went to her house in northern Virginia to better understand what was going on. She felt reassured enough to wait until the next day to schedule a visit with her OBGYN, who confirmed that the baby was healthy.

Currently, Doctors to You has three medical providers on board, but we hope to expand our practice during the next few years. By combining an old school practice with new technology, we’re making health care more accessible to people in the D.C. area – and hopefully across the country one day.

About the author: Dr. Ernest Brown is the founder and CEO of Doctors To You, an on-call medical provider in Washington, DC.

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