At-home hospital care costs less, uses fewer tests, Annals study finds

By | December 19, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • The average total cost of care provided to patients at-home instead of in the hospital was 38% less costly, according to a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that sought to compare costs and outcomes of hospital-level care provided at home and in the hospital.
  • Home patients were readmitted less frequently within a 30-day period. On average, 7% of the home patients were readmitted within 30 days compared to the 23% who were treated in the hospital. Home patients were also less sedentary and had fewer lab and imaging orders.
  • However, the researchers caution the sample size of the study was small, including 91 adults (43 home patients and 48 control patients, or those who were admitted to the traditional hospital). That may limit whether the findings can be extended to the population at large.

Dive Insight:

Some of the nation’s largest health systems are actively working to care for more patients at home instead of in the traditional hospital setting. The move comes as the industry faces pressure to reduce the cost of care while also improving quality. Hospitals tend to be an expensive place to receive care.

As more care moves to an outpatient setting, hospitals are trying to get ahead of the curve by providing care to patients at home for those who don’t need continuous monitoring and do not have a life-threatening diagnosis.

At the same time, home health agencies, which provide a wide range of services, are also experiencing significant growth as the population skews older thanks to aging baby boomers.

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The study, despite the small sample size, may reinforce some health systems’ decisions to transition to at-home care for appropriate patients.

It found that at-home patients fared better than those in the hospital when it came to price and outcomes. They saw reduced costs and readmissions, used fewer healthcare services and were more physically active than their hospital counterparts.

The researchers were affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Partners HealthCare System and received funding from Partners HealthCare Center for Population Health.

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