New program lets hospital patients heal at home


NEW YORK — Roughly $1 trillion per year is spent on hospital care, which is about a third of all health care costs in the U.S. But a new program cuts costs by allowing patients to be treated at home.

Dr. David Levine and nurse Kim Tierney of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital are making a house call, treating Phyllis Petruzzelli for pneumonia in her living room.

Petruzzelli enrolled in an innovative program. Instead of staying in the hospital, patients are sent to their homes for treatment following a visit to the emergency room. There’s one goal: control costs without sacrificing quality. At first, Petruzzelli was skeptical.

“You’re old-school, you’re sick, you go to the hospital, you stay there,” she said. “You don’t have the doctor come to the house anymore.”

There are daily visits and 24-hour access to her medical team. Vital signs are remotely monitored by a skin patch.

A study out Wednesday found home stays had the same levels of safety and quality of care as those in the hospital at about half the cost. Doctors ordered far fewer blood tests and scans.

“By moving people to their home we automatically are able to customize what they need and tailor it to them and that’s part of the place where we see a lot of cost savings,” said Dr. Levine.

Home patients also walk 10 times more than those in the hospital.

“We believe that because patients are moving more at home that they’re going to be able to preserve their strength and end up better off afterward,” said Dr. Levine.

It looks like those home patients do better after discharge. New data shows fewer readmissions to the hospital at 30 days. There may be other benefits beyond the cost savings — better sleep, and a lower chance of catching something from a hospital patient just a curtain away.

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