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Home (Care) for the Holidays

By jfellows@healthleadersmedia.com  
   December 18, 2014

Keeping your oldest, sickest patients at home not only enhances their dignity, but is a more cost-effective way to care for them. It could even lead to shared savings.

An innovative team-based model of patient care keeps frail and elderly patients at home, reduces costs, builds trust between providers and patients, and reduces emergency department visits.

Fifteen years in, the results are clear.

A study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, looks at the middle five years of a program that began in 1999 at MedStar Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center, a 926-bed hospital that is part of the MedStar Health system.

In the late 1990s, K. Eric De Jonge, MD, and George Taler, MD, co-founded what is now known as hospital's House Call program, a hospital-based, team approach that cares for frail and elderly patients in the D.C. area.

"When we started this program, we began a new geriatrics division and talked to the CEO and CMO … and they gave us 2–3 years to break even," says De Jonge. "What became clear is the need. We got 20 new patients per month without marketing and it grew rapidly."

Now, 15 years later, the House Call program cares for approximately 630 patients, says De Jonge. To be eligible for the program, patients must be over 65, have some form of insurance, live within the nine zip codes the MedStar Washington serves, and have trouble getting out of the home.

Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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