Healthcare News & Insights

New trend: Hospital care at home

Home care is common for patients who have conditions that limit their mobility or make it difficult for them to travel. Now a few hospitals are taking it a step further and turning the typical hospital visit into a house call. 

467527223Hospital care can often be expensive and taxing on patients, even if it’s their best option for recovering from a major illness. However, according to the New York Times, certain hospitals are testing out the idea of sending the hospital to the patient – instead of the other way around.

How it works

Patients must meet strict criteria to qualify for hospital treatment in their homes. They can’t have illnesses that would require the use of complex medical equipment, such as a ventilator. And they can’t be treated at home for a condition that would require them to be admitted to the ICU.

Johns Hopkins Hospital recently initiated its own hospital-at-home program. Doctors decided to focus on four illnesses where patient care could be easily adapted for a home setting: heart failure, certain strains of pneumonia, cellulitis and exacerbations of emphysema.

In the first phase of the program, Johns Hopkins offered hospital care at home to 150 patients. Nearly all of them agreed to participate. The patients in the program had shorter, more cost-effective hospital stays than other patients with the same conditions. And they had lower chances of developing delirium or needing sedatives – likely because they were able to recover in the comfort of their own homes.

In New York, Mount Sinai Hospital also has its own hospital at home program with criteria similar to those for the Johns Hopkins’ program. In the “mobile acute care” program, patients who visit the emergency department with specific illnesses are given the option of recovering at home if their general vital signs (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure) are stable.

To keep patients who participate in the Mount Sinai program safe, the hospital gives them access to 24-hour doctor and nurse coverage. Mount Sinai also partnered with local EMS providers where technicians will care for patients to the best of their ability when called, only transporting them to the emergency department if their needs can’t be handled at home.

Future of home care

Historically, one of the biggest obstacles to creating “hospital-at-home” programs is getting payors to cover these services.

However, in light of the recent push toward value-based payment and finding unique ways to improve patient outcomes, Medicare and other carriers may be more open to facilities using strategies like hospital-at-home treatment if it’s proven to provide low-cost, high-quality care.

In fact, the Mount Sinai program is being funded by Medicare to see just how much money it can save in the long run. Patients will be monitored for a month after they’ve completed their treatment at home, and they’ll be able to take advantage of services to enhance their recovery, including personal health coaching and home provider visits.

It may be worthwhile to keep an eye on how successful programs like these are for other facilities, since they may provide your hospital with an excellent chance to provide quality care while improving patient outcomes – and patient satisfaction scores.

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