Guided Care programs significantly reduce the number of days seniors with chronic conditions spend in hospitals and nursing homes. The also can save billions of dollars in healthcare costs each year, according to a new study.

The three-year study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed more than 900 elderly patients as they went through either a Guided Care program or a more traditional treatment regime. On average, Guided Care patients spent 24% fewer days in the hospital, 37% fewer days in skilled nursing facilities, experienced 15% fewer emergency department visits and had 29% fewer home healthcare episodes. The Guided Care patients cost 11% less to treat than those receiving traditional care. By extrapolating the results over the nation’s 11 million Medicare beneficiaries, researchers project Medicare could save up to $15 billion annually through Guided Care programs, according to report authors.

Under Guided Care programs, elderly patients with multiple chronic conditions receive extra personal attention from primary care physicians and registered nurses in order to reduce the number of more expensive hospital and skilled nursing visits they require. Up to 77% of older adults have two or more chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, according to the study. (McKnight’s, 5/30/08)