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Reducing Costs and Improving Patient Health: A Success Story

The Washington Post recently offered a profile of the success of Health Quality Partners, a Pennsylvania-based organization that has demonstrated how focusing additional medical resources on particularly vulnerable Medicare patients can reduce costs and improve patient health. The extra medical resources offered by Health Quality Partners aren’t more doctor visits, more invasive tests, or more drugs. Rather, Health Quality Partners offers Medicare patients at high risk—defined as having at least one chronic illness and one recent hospitalization—regular home visits from a nurse, who helps them address small issues before they cause a health crisis.

The resulting stabilization of patient health has reduced costs for Medicare by 22 percent and cut hospitalizations by 33 percent.

We know that more doctor visits and more days in the hospital drive up health care costs and reduce patient satisfaction. The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care has compiled extensive data on this, as have others—some of which we summarized in our report Diagnosing the High Cost of Health Care. The challenge lies in translating this knowledge into changes in health care delivery. The success of Health Quality Partners’ program provides a clear example of how health care providers can help patients avoid needing to go to the doctor or enter the hospital—and to cut costs in the process.