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New Industry Report: Home Health Care Shown to Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates

Posted 7/10/2012 Categories: chronic care, home health, readmission rates, research, AHHCQI

Practicing medicine for 30 years as a family physician, I saw firsthand the difference quality health care at home can make in both outcomes and quality of life for someone who has chronic illness. That’s why it was no surprise to me when the latest study from the Alliance for Home Health Care Quality and Innovation showed that home health care is not only cost effective, but also helps prevent avoidable readmissions to the hospital.

The data from the Alliance stresses the importance of strongly coordinated care efforts between physicians and home health care providers. When patients are discharged from the hospital and receive home health care, they are likely to stay out of the hospital, helping the nation’s health care system run more effectively and more efficiently.

This study defines a “pathway” as the kind of care a patient receives. According to the findings:

  • The average cost of the most common pathway (home health to community-based care) is $5,273
  • The average cost of the 10 most common pathways is $9,096
  • The average cost of all other non-post-acute care pathways is $32,617

Though home health has proven to be one of the most cost-effective pathways, payments for home health care, skilled nursing facilities, inpatient rehab facilities, and long-term care hospitals make up only 2.3 percent of all pre-acute care Medicare episode payments. Hospital and physician services make up 92 percent. With the findings showing the benefits of home health care in both quality of care and cost, there is a lot of opportunity for Amedisys and other home health care providers to become an even more important partner in a strong and effective health care system.

If you’re interested in reading more about the study, I recommend the working paper, Baseline Statistics of Patient Pathways, part of the Alliance’s Clinically Appropriate and Cost-Effective Placement (CACEP) Project. They are doing some great work toward determining how the Medicare home health benefit can improve the quality and efficiency of care for patients.

The next installment of the CACEP Project, discussing the future of the Medicare payment system, will be released in September. I look forward to sharing my thoughts here.

About the Author

Michael Fleming, MD, FAAFP is the Chief Medical Officer for Amedisys, and Past President of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Louisiana Academy of Family Physicians. Dr. Fleming has served as Speaker of the Congress of Delegates of the AAFP and as Board Chair of the AAFP Board of Directors. He serves as an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the LSU Health Science Center and in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Tulane University Medical School.
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