Benchmarks for Reducing Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalizations Through Community Health Workers Integrated Into Primary Care

Seq ID: 605
DocID: Natl57
Authors: Basu S, Jack HE, Arabadjis SD, Phillips RS
Year: 2016
State: NatDoc
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Publicly Available: Yes
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Background: Uncertainty about the financial costs and benefits of community health worker (CHW) programs remains a barrier to their adoption. Objectives: To determine how much CHWs would need to reduce emergency department (ED) visits and associated hospitalizations among their assigned patients to be cost-neutral from a payer’s perspective. Research Design: Using a microsimulation of patient health care utilization, costs, and revenues, we estimated what portion of ED visits and hospitalizations for different conditions would need to be prevented by a CHW program to fully pay for the program’s expenses. The model simulated CHW programs enrolling patients with a history of at least 1 ED visit for a chronic condition in the prior year, utilizing data on utilization and cost from national sources. Results: CHWs assigned to patients with uncontrolled hypertension and congestive heart failure, as compared with other common conditions, achieve cost-neutrality with the lowest number of averted visits to the ED. To achieve cost-neutrality, 4–5 visits to the ED would need to be averted per year by a CHW assigned a panel of 70 patients with uncontrolled hypertension or congestive heart failure— approximately 3%–4% of typical ED visits among such patients, respectively. Most other chronic conditions would require between 7% and 12% of ED visits to be averted to achieve cost-savings. Conclusion: Offsetting costs of a CHW program is theoretically feasible for many common conditions. Yet the benchmark for reducing ED visits and associated hospitalizations varies substantially by a patient’s primary diagnosis. Key Words: community health workers, health care utilization, microsimulation, health care costs, chronic disease management

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