Study: Patients treated at home happier, healthier

Sunday, January 15, 2006

YARMOUTH, Maine - Patients who receive hospital-level home health care experienced shorter hospital stays, fewer treatments, lower costs and higher satisfaction levels, according to a study published in the December issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study was based on 355 elderly patients with acute conditions like pneumonia, congestive heart failure, COPD and cellulites--conditions that ordinarily would be treated in the hospital. Older patients in hospitals are more susceptible to confusion, weakness and the loss of ability to care for themselves.

To qualify for the study, patients had to be 65 and older, live in certain areas and not have low blood oxygen, signs of heart attack or multiple conditions requiring hospitalization. During the first phase of the study, patients were hospitalized as usual.

During the second phase, however, patients could opt to choose hospital-level care at home. Treatment consisted of eight to 24 hours of immediate nursing care, followed by daily visits from a nurse and doctor. Drugs, oxygen, lab tests and other therapies were administered as needed.

A limitation of the study was that people who choose home health care might have been healthier to begin with or had stronger social support than those who did not choose this type of care.