Survey and Chart Review to Estimate Medicare Cost Savings for Home Health as an Alternative to Hospital Admission Following Emergency Department Treatment
Almost 70% of hospital admissions for Medicare beneficiaries originate in the emergency department (ED). Research suggests that some of these patients’ needs may be better met through home-based care options after evaluation and treatment in the ED. Objective: We sought to estimate Medicare cost savings resulting from using the Home Health benefit to provide treatment, when appropriate, as an alternative to inpatient admission from the ED. Methods: This is a prospective study of patients admitted from the ED. A survey tool was used to query both emergency physicians (EPs) and patient medical record data to identify potential candidates and treatments for home-based care alternatives. Patient preferences were also surveyed. Cost savings were estimated by developing a model of Medicare Home Health to serve as a counterpart to the actual hospital-based care. Results: EPs identified 40% of the admitted patients included in the study as candidates for home-based care. The top three major diagnostic categories included diseases and disorders of the respiratory system, digestive system, and skin. Services included intravenous hydration, intravenous antibiotics, and laboratory testing. The average estimated cost savings between the Medicare inpatient reimbursement and the Home Health counterpart was approximately $4000. Of the candidate patients surveyed, 79% indicated a preference for home-based care after treatment in the ED. Conclusions: Some Medicare beneficiaries could be referred to Home Health from the ED with a concomitant reduction in Medicare expenditures. Additional studies are needed to compare outcomes, develop the logistical pathways, and analyze infrastructure costs and incentives to enable Medicare Home Health options from the ED.