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J Health Serv Res Policy. 2005 Jul;10(3):158-66.

The effectiveness, acceptability and costs of a hospital-at-home service compared with acute hospital care: a randomized controlled trial.

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  • 1A+ Links Home and Older People's Health, Auckland Hospital, Cshool of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



To compare the safety, effectiveness, acceptability and costs of a hospital-at-home programme with usual acute hospital inpatient care.


Patients aged 55 years or over being treated for an acute medical problem were randomized to receive either standard inpatient hospital care or hospital-at-home care. Follow-up was for 90 days after randomization. Health outcome measures included physical and mental function, self-rated recovery, health status as assessed by the SF-36, adverse events and readmissions to hospital. Acceptability was assessed using satisfaction surveys and the Carer Strain Index. Costs comprised hospital care, care in the home, community services, general practitioner services and personal health care expenses.


In all, 285 people were randomized with a mean age of 80 years. There were no significant differences in health outcome measures between the two randomized groups. Significantly more patients receiving care at home reported high levels of satisfaction, as did more of their relatives. Relatives of the care-at-home group also reported significantly lower scores on the Carer Strain Index. However, the mean cost per patient was almost twice for patients treated at home (NZ 6524 dollars) as for standard hospital care (NZ 3525 dollars). A sensitivity analysis indicated that, if the service providing care in the home had been operating at full capacity, the mean cost per patient episode would have been similar for both modes of care.


This hospital-at-home programme was found to be more acceptable and as effective and safe as inpatient care. While caring for patients at home was significantly more costly than standard inpatient care, this was largely due to the hospital-at-home programme not operating at full capacity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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