Studies in the past have found that using substitutive virtual hospital care instead of the traditional hospital settings can increase patient satisfaction while still delivering the same level of care. But a new study by Kevin D. Frick, PhD titled “Substitutive Virtual Hospital for Older Persons: Effects on Costs” has looked at the overall costs associated with this type of alternative care compared to traditional inpatient care.
The study involved 455 older patients in three Medicare managed health systems. During the study, costs were analyzed based on the condition being treated and the health care system being used to treat the problem. Patients included in this study were suffering from acute conditions including the following:
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
• Exacerbation of congestive heart failure
• Community acquired pneumonia
The study did not require a caregiver to reside in the home with the patient. Instead, virtual hospital nurses would meet the ambulance transporting the patient at their home and provide one on one care. Nursing visits occurred at least daily, and physician visits also made daily home visits. Throughout care, physicians were on call to provide care and emergency treatment when needed.
Costs of care included all aspects of care, divided into emergency department costs and non-emergency costs. The reason for this is that most virtual hospital admissions will originate in the emergency department. Follow up care and readmission were also considered during the study. Additionally, the study data was collected between 2000 and 2002. All costs were adjusted for inflation to ensure the most accurate data possible was gathered concerning costs.
The study found that virtual hospital care had significantly lower costs than traditional hospital care. Mean costs of virtual hospital care was $5081, while traditional hospital care costs were a mean $7480. As such, the study’s conclusions were that overall costs were indeed lower when virtual hospital care was provided instead of traditional acute care options.
Combined with other studies that have shown higher rates of patient satisfaction and the fact that the level of care received is virtually identical between treatment methods, this study shows that virtual hospital care is a viable option as well as one that may be able to save patients considerably when acute care is needed.