UnitedHealth's HouseCalls reduces hospital readmissions

HouseCalls, which sends a physician or nurse practitioner on a home visit to Medicare Advantage members, helped reduce hospital and nursing home admissions, according to a new study.

The study looked at the results of the UnitedHealth Medicare Home Visit Program, which has been active in five states since January 2008.

Researchers from the Rand Corporation compared HouseCalls participants to Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in traditional fee-for-service Medicare or in Medicare Advantage plans not eligible for the program.

Results were published in Health Affairs and showed that:

  • Participants had up to 14 percent fewer hospital admissions in the 12 months after the home visit
  • Participants had lower risk of nursing home admissions
  • The number of physician office visits, mostly to specialists, increased
  • Effects on emergency room visits were mixed

The visits, combined with referral services, can support aging in place, promote physician office visits and preempt costly institutional care, the researchers found. The HouseCalls program was offered to plan members in Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas.

As FierceHealthPayer previously reported, UnitedHealth has expanded its presence in the patient care business through its Optum unit, which operates the HouseCalls program.

"This study shows that our in-home-based care model is helping seniors access the care they need and preempts costly hospitalizations and nursing home admissions," Kristy Duffey, Optum's senior vice president of clinical operations for HouseCalls and Complex Care Management, said in an announcement.

Optum has also been financially successful, as revenues for the health services business unit jumped 61 percent in third-quarter earnings released by UnitedHealth this fall.

To learn more:
- read the study