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How Hospitals Can Save Millions Helping Homeless

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, December 29, 2011

The new program gives hospitals an answer about whether it can accept a patient within four hours, and often admits the patient the same day, Bruno says.

According to an April policy brief prepared by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, pilot medical respite programs around the country like the NHF's reduce by nearly one-third the number of inpatient days and cut ED visits almost in half. They do result in a slight increase in less-expensive outpatient clinic visits.

"Homelessness exacerbates health problems, complicates treatment, and disrupts continuity of care" for discharged patients, the brief says, adding that programs in eight cities where hospitals partner with medical respite efforts have saved them more than $30 million, with the largest amount, $11.2 million saved over two years, in Richmond, VA.

Three hospitals in Cincinnati have saved $6.2 million, and in Salt Lake City, hospitals are saving $5.5 million a year, according to the council's policy brief.

Grigsby and Lott say that they want to expand the program to include Long Beach and the San Fernando Valley in ways that take advantage of economies of scale.

"We did the math, and we decided it just makes sense to go this route," Lott says. "This is really the best thing since sliced bread. The hospital industry got together and solved a problem."

Let's hope there are many more healthcare solutions like this to write about in 2012.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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1 comments on "How Hospitals Can Save Millions Helping Homeless"


Ruth Hansten RN PhD FACHE (1/5/2012 at 11:49 AM)
Cheryl, thank you for assembling this great news about creative demonstration projects for "frequent fliers" that I hope will be replicated on a national scale. I come from a public health background in the 1970s when we did use half-way houses and other suppport services to help patients truly heal before discharge. We can argue whether this is the government's job or the hospital's responsibility, but while we figure out accountability, patients are being supported in a compassionate manner. To me, the measure of a society is how we care for the least fortunate among us. It's heartening that doing the right thing, respectful healing care that's individualized for that person, is saving money!