Why Doctors Stopped Making House Calls

In a 1947 article, a general practitioner explains why the traditional family doctor was disappearing from America.

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—From the “The Vanishing Family Doctor” by Mary B. Spahr,  in the August 23, 1947, issue of The Saturday Evening Post

What has happened to the old-fashioned general practitioner who went out in all kinds of weather and could handle anything from an infected finger to a baby without cracking a book? He is being put out of business by the very people who pay him the tribute of nostalgia, but pay their money to the specialist. Fifty years ago, a scattering of doctors were specialists. This year, almost every medical student you meet is planning to specialize.

Incidentally, people who sigh over the good old days forget the times they came into the office to find the doctor out. They forget what happened in those horse-and-buggy days when the doctor stayed night and day with a seriously ill patient. Nothing is said of the other patients who suffered or died unattended because he could not be reached.


Read the entire article ‘The Vanishing Family Doctor’ from the August 23, 1947 issue of The Saturday Evening Post

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  1. I was raised in a rural Southern county where one older doctor who was one of the best ever made house calls up until the late 1970s/early 1980s. He delivered many babies as well as bringing healing to the ill.

  2. I figured house calls were probably on the way out before World War II, and the times they were thriving were not without serious drawbacks.

    The Post cover shows the mother trying not to react to the intrusive dog, and not the fear of an outrageous doctor’s bill. She didn’t have to think to herself ‘Is he in the network? He’s here in my house, but what if he’s out of network?! Oh my God; should I just ask, now?!’

    Forgive that bitter present-day projection onto the distant past. I couldn’t help it.


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