Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Hospital at home program benefits patients while keeping costs low

To stay competitive in the current healthcare climate, hospitals must be willing to think differently when it comes to patient care – perhaps by taking inspiration from the “house calls” of days gone by.

One healthcare group in New Mexico took a unique approach to reducing both hospital readmission rates and healthcare costs by participating in a study to evaluate the effectiveness of Johns Hopkins University’s Hospital at Home program, which provides ill, elderly patients with hospital-level care in their homes.

The results of the study were overwhelmingly positive: Over the past year, patients of Presbyterian Healthcare Services of Albuquerque, NM, reported equal or better outcomes than their counterparts who only received hospital inpatient care. And the program cut costs by 20%.

With the Hospital at Home initiative, physicians from the hospitals would visit patients in their homes once a day, and nurses would visit between one and two times daily. Doctors would assess each patient’s condition and coordinate a care plan, while nurses would administer medications, conduct tests, and answer questions about their illnesses and treatments.

Over 300 patients opted to participate in the program, and their results were compared with over 1,000 people who received inpatient care.

Patients in the Hospital at Home program were treated for a variety of conditions. Most were illnesses that typically account for a large percentage of hospital admissions in older people, such as congestive heart failure, urinary tract infection, deep venous thrombosis and emphysema.  These conditions tend to be easier to treat in the home.

To be eligible for participation, patients had to live within a 25-mile radius of a hospital in the healthcare group with an emergency room.

Although the Hospital at Home program has been used in various Veterans Affairs hospitals and Medicare managed care organizations in the past with success, Presbyterian Healthcare Services is one of the first healthcare groups outside of those categories to participate in the program.

There’s been a bit of resistance from payors and providers to switch over to this model of care. However, the benefits shown by this study shouldn’t be sneezed at: Patients in the New Mexico study had lower mortality rates than their counterparts, and they were much more satisfied with their overall level of care.

Previous tests of the Hospital at Home program yielded even better outcomes, including a 32% decrease in medical costs.

Given the positive results, it’s worth taking a closer look at this program to see if your hospital could implement something similar in the future.

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