Heart patients are less likely to be rehospitalized after discharge from a skilled nursing facility when home care is prescribed, a new study has found.

The findings were unexpected, said lead author Himali Weerahandi, M.D., from the NYU School of Medicine. Patients who are prescribed home care tend to have more functional difficulties. They have also typically had relatively shorter periods of time in residential care, she said. Yet the study found that these patients also had lower odds of returning to the hospital within 30 days. 

“It’s surprising that only about 20 percent of people received home healthcare after discharge from skilled nursing facilities,” said Weerahandi. “Recovery from a hospitalization can sometimes take longer than expected and the support provided by the skilled nursing facility and then home healthcare may be what vulnerable patients need to get better.”

The researchers analyzed the health records of more than 67,000 seniors who had been hospitalized for heart failure, were released to a skilled nursing facility, and then were sent home. 

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.