New Study Says At-Home Cancer Care May Lead to Fewer Hospitalizations and Lower Bills

Hospitals can be an uncomfortable place, especially for those dealing with an illness that requires lots of medical care. For cancer patients, could it be more effective to get some of that care at home? A new study says it just might be.

A team of researchers from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah looked at the outcomes of the Huntsman at Home cancer care model for those in need of acute care and found that it had both health and cost benefits. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Dr. Kathleen Mooney, Huntsman at Home research director and lead author, says, “Acute cancer care in the home had not previously been evaluated. We sought to create a model that extended the compassionate care of HCI to provide services in a patient’s home that otherwise might require urgent or emergency care or a longer hospitalization to resolve.”

To conduct the study, researchers compared the experiences of 169 patients who were enrolled in the at-home model with the experiences of 198 usual care patients who were not. Over 30 days, the at-home group had 55% fewer hospitalizations, 45% fewer emergency department visits, and shorter hospital stays by one day. There were also financial benefits, with 47% lower costs compared to those who did not use the at-home model.

The study authors say the findings indicate the “program shows initial promise as a model for oncology care that may lower unplanned health care utilization and health care costs.”

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Huntsman at Home was originally offered to those who lived within 20 miles of the Huntsman Cancer Institute’s hospital in Salt Lake City. However, HCI is working on expanding its services, which include symptom management, as well as acute medical, post-surgical, palliative, and end-of-life care.

Mooney explains, “Huntsman at Home is expanding to three rural counties in southeastern Utah, areas that require a two- to four-hour drive for patients to come to HCI.”

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From there, the goal is to see how many other communities within its coverage area may benefit from at-home care, including those who live far from medical centers in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming.

If you’re interested in learning more about at-home cancer care and any services near you, the American Cancer Society says reaching out to your doctor, your hospital discharge planner, or a social worker may help. Your local office on aging or American Cancer Society chapter may have helpful information, as well.

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