n this era of assembly-line appointments, when you're lucky to get 10 minutes of face time with a physician, the idea of doctors making house calls seems old-fashioned. But for frail, elderly people with multiple health problems, bringing the medical establishment to the patient makes sense. Because it's hard for these patients to get to the doctor, small problems languish and turn into larger ones. Eventually some of these people land in the emergency room or hospital. They may recover, but often the cycle starts over again. Home visits make financial sense as well, notes Jim Pyles, a Washington lawyer and member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Home Care Physicians. "We found that you could afford to treat a patient for a whole year at home by avoiding just one hospitalization," he says.