Study: Clinical Home Visit Program Reduces Costly Hospital and Nursing Home Admissions, Increases Physician Office Visits Among Medicare Beneficiaries

Date Posted: December 7, 2015

  • A RAND Corporation study published in Health Affairs evaluated the effectiveness of Optum’s HouseCalls℠ program on UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan beneficiaries.  

  • Results show HouseCalls program participants had up to 14 percent fewer hospital admissions, lower risk of admission to nursing homes, and a 2- to 6-percent increase in physician office visits.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (Dec. 7, 2015) – A RAND Corporation study published today in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs demonstrates the effectiveness of Optum’s HouseCalls program in reducing costly hospitalizations and nursing home admissions, and increasing the use of office-based physician care.   

UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan beneficiaries enrolled in the HouseCalls program had up to 14 percent fewer hospital admissions over the 12 months after the home visit, when compared to other Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in traditional fee-for-service Medicare or Medicare Advantage plans not eligible for the program. The risk of nursing home admissions was also significantly reduced. In the year following the HouseCalls visits, physician office visits – a lower-cost care setting – increased by 2 percent to 6 percent depending on the study’s comparison group.* 

HouseCalls combines the convenience and compassion of a home visit with the power of today’s technology and data. Licensed health care practitioners use electronic tablets with up-to-date clinical data to effectively assess and treat health conditions, educate people on current and potential health issues and identify topics for patients to discuss with their physicians. 

“This study shows that our in-home-based care model is helping seniors access the care they need and pre-empts costly hospitalizations and nursing home admissions,” said Kristy Duffey, MS, APRN, GNP-BC, Optum’s senior vice president of Clinical Operations for HouseCalls and Complex Care Management. “The work we do through the HouseCalls program helps people access quality and cost-efficient care, and embodies our mission to make the health system work better for everyone.” 

Paul and Judy Schuster’s HouseCalls Story

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half of adults age 65 and older are up-to-date with preventive services such as screenings for chronic conditions, immunizations and counseling about personal health behaviors. Expanding access to clinical home visit programs such as HouseCalls can help close that gap and enable people to live healthier lives. 

Paul Schuster of Allenton, Wis., was one such HouseCalls patient.

Schuster describes himself as “not a doctor-going person.” At the urging of his wife Judy, and after years without a checkup, Schuster agreed to a HouseCalls appointment in the comfort of his own home. The nurse practitioner who met with him identified high blood pressure as an issue requiring immediate attention by his primary care physician. Persuaded by Judy and the nurse practitioner, Schuster visited his doctor and learned he has lung cancer. He has now completed treatment and continues routine monitoring. 

“Paul wouldn’t be here today had it not been for the HouseCalls program,” said Judy Schuster. “I’ve been told by several of his physicians that if we hadn’t addressed the problem when it was addressed, he wouldn’t have made it.” t

To see Paul Schuster’s story, click here.

“These results and the Schusters’ story demonstrate why UnitedHealthcare offers HouseCalls and other high-touch personalized services to help people maintain and maximize their health,” said Sam Ho, M.D., chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare. “Because of these efforts, more Medicare beneficiaries are learning about opportunities for preventive care, becoming engaged in their health care and identifying health issues early, when they are easier to treat.” 

To read the Health Affairs article, click here

About Optum

Optum is a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. Optum delivers intelligent, integrated solutions to modernize the health system and improve overall population health. For more information, visit www.optum.com.