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Benchmarks for Reducing Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalizations Through CHWs Integrated Into Primary Care: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Med Care. 2016 Aug 19. [Pubmed Abstract]

Benchmarks for Reducing Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalizations Through Community Health Workers Integrated Into Primary Care: A Cost-Benefit Analysis
Basu S, Jack HE, Arabadjis SD, Phillips RS

Uncertainty about the financial costs and benefits of community health worker (CHW) programs remains a barrier to their adoption.

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.

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.

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.


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