Should you try home hospital care?

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Published: April, 2020

In the old days, doctors would make house calls; that rarely happens today. However, a new kind of "house call" is in the works: in many cities it's now possible to receive hospital care at home for certain conditions. Such "home hospital care" programs are gaining in popularity. A randomized controlled Harvard study published online Dec. 17, 2019, by Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that the home hospital model of care is less expensive and leads to fewer readmissions than in-hospital care.

Researchers studied about 90 people who'd been diagnosed in the emergency room with infections or flares of heart failure or breathing problems. Half of the people were admitted to hospitals, and the other half were enrolled in home hospital care. The home hospital care group received visits from doctors and nurses, intravenous medications, and video monitoring. People in the home group had 38% lower hospital costs than those in the hospital group, they were more active during care, and they were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days after their care less frequently (7% vs. 23%) than those in the hospital group. Home hospital care is not appropriate for everyone. "If someone is too sick or is in need of advanced procedures, their care may be better delivered in a traditional hospital," says Dr. David M. Levine, the study's lead author and an internal medicine specialist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. However, if you have an illness that needs constant monitoring and treatment for several days — in other words, it can't be done in a doctor's office — yet it also doesn't require advanced procedures or constant and intensive nursing care, the home hospital care model may make sense. "If the home hospital model were offered to a member of my family, I'd encourage them to do it," says Dr. Levine.

image: Chinnapong/Getty Images

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