New 'Hospital in the Nursing Home' program helps keep elderly out of the ED

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A new collaborative program between nursing homes and a local hospital in Australia is keeping the elderly out of the emergency department, and rapidly decreasing hospital readmissions.

Australian researchers have been testing out the use of a program they call “Hospital in the Nursing Home,” which involves coordination between one of the country's largest providers and local nursing homes. The state-funded program includes a team of two or three ED-based nurses, who coordinate care with nursing homes and other healthcare professionals. The goal is to facilitate lower-acuity care, such as changing catheters, wound treatment or blood transfusions, in nursing homes.

Testing out the model at nursing homes serving some 2,000 elderly, they found that it led to a 17% decrease in trips to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, and a 36% drop in hospital admissions from the emergency department. All told, the program spelled a 47% dip in hospital admissions, according to the study, published in PLoS ONE.

Those drops in hospital use have spelled sizable savings — with the researchers estimating that every $1 Australian dollar invested into the program equated to $17 in savings for the government.

"When emergency departments, hospitals and community health providers work together providing the best possible care for older Australians in their home, everyone benefits,” Emergency Medicine Foundation of Australia Director Anthony Bell, M.D., said in an announcement of the study results. "Emergency and hospital beds are freed up and older patients are not unnecessarily coming into an unfamiliar and often stressful environment."