Home visits to patients with complex care needs can provide huge returns by identifying patient compliance barriers that are only apparent when seeing a patient in their home. Dr. Larry Greenblatt, M.D., director for the chronic care program at Durham Community Health Network for Duke University Medical Center, shares organizational lessons from using home visits as part of a care transition program to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions and emergency room utilization.
With our patient population, none of these patients in the program have simple or single diagnosis. We learned that Care Partners providing intensive and frequent service with a strong face-to-face component backed by an interdisciplinary support team can help high-utilizing patients receive their care in more effective and efficient outpatient settings.
Second, when using previous programs that focused on telephone education and advice, we discovered that the face-to-face interactions have a direct impact on these patients and their ability to change their care model.
Thrd, we discovered that, if effective on a larger scale, our care model could be used nationally as a significant means of reducing healthcare costs.
Fourth, this intervention reduced unplanned admission days by 77 (71 percent) in three months. This reduction greatly benefits the medical patients and gives us increased capacity for new admissions. It also improves the life and the care of those patients who are involved in the program.
Fifth, most of our pilot patients had unmet mental health and substance abuse problems and had difficulty obtaining needed services. That was another benefit of having the multidisciplinary team sitting around the table as we did care conferences on our patients on a weekly basis. We actively addressed the mental health needs to help get a patient’s medical issues taken care of and result in higher benefits from our care being linked to all of the care.
Sixth, this multidisciplinary approach, direct face-to-face contact and ongoing telephone contact is the secret in making this program work.
And finally, patients often did not have a primary care provider at the beginning of the pilot and they benefited from being linked with one. Finding them a medical home was important and made the patients feel more comfortable with continuing to keep outpatient appointments.
Dr. Larry Greenblatt, MD, is the medical director for the chronic care program at Durham Community Health Network. Dr. Greenblatt is also an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, where he has been on the faculty since 1994. Dr Greenblatt focuses on postgraduate medical education and primary care.