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Weighing the Costs of Reduced Hospitalizations for Nursing Home Patients

Costs of Reduced Hospitalizations for Nursing Home PatientsHospitalizations for nursing home patients are a costly expenditure for Medicare, running about $4 billion a year nationwide. It is not a surprise that finding ways to reduce the amount of trips to the hospital is a hot topic when looking at ways to cut spending. Researchers at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) have jumped on the bandwagon and believe they have found a solution to reducing unneeded hospitalization for nursing home patients and a way to save the country millions of dollars. The only question is what the cost will be to the patients.

Researching the Problem.

FAU recently received a $1.8 million grant to continue their research into the reduction of hospital stays for nursing home patients. They have devised a program to train nursing home staff to look for early signs of medical issues and evaluate whether the patient needs further medical attention. The program is called Implementing Interventions to Reduce Hospitalizations of Nursing Home Residents, or INTERACT.

INTERACT is based on the theory that many hospitalizations are not only unnecessary, but possibly even harmful or at least, unpleasant, for patients. The program devises a plan to train nurses and aides on how to evaluate health issues and determine the best solution, whether it is more intensive in-house care or hospitalization.

With reductions to the way Medicare will reimburse nursing homes for hospital readmissions coming soon, it is no wonder that INTERACT is being welcomed with open arms. Twenty-five homes studied last year that are currently enrolled in the program showed a reduction of 17% in hospitalizations, saving an average of $125,000 per home.

Costs To The Patients

Although Medicare and nursing home owners are seeing dollar signs with the INTERACT program, little has been reported as far as the cost to patient care. With emphasis being put on reducing hospitalization, it is a concern that patients may not be given the medical care they need in a timely manner. Delaying sending them to the hospital while staff evaluates and discusses options, could lead to deadly consequences.

The biggest question that needs to be asked is why now? Common sense tells us that nurses and aides should already have been trained to evaluate the medical needs of their patients and decide whether hospitalization is warranted. Only when funding for these trips is about to be cut does it seem to become an issue to reduce them. The INTERACT program raises more questions than answers on why this is the case.

Only time will tell how this will effect the treatment and welfare of nursing home patients who need medical attention. While there is nothing wrong with researching ways to save money while improving patient care, it remains to be seen whether this will be the result of the INTERACT program. Hopefully, the savings incurred will not happen at the cost of the medical care of residents in these homes.

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