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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1999 Feb;47(2):131-8.

Primary care of long-stay nursing home residents: approaches of three health maintenance organizations.

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UCLA Multicampus Program in Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, Los Angeles, California 90095-1687, USA.



To describe the innovative programs of three health maintenance organizations (HMOs) for providing primary care for long-stay nursing home (NH) residents and to compare this care with that of fee-for-service (FFS) residents at the same NHs.


Cross-sectional interviews and case-studies, including retrospective chart reviews for 1 year.


The programs were based in 20 community-based nursing homes in three regions (East, West, Far West).


Administrative and professional staff of HMOs in three regions and 20 NHs; 215 HMO and 187 FFS residents at these homes were studied.


Emergency department (ED) and hospital utilization.


All HMO programs utilized nurse practitioner/physician's assistants (NP/PA), but the structural configuration of physicians' (MD) practices differed substantially. At nursing homes within each region, all three HMO programs provided more total (MD plus NP/PA) visits per month than did FFS care (2.0 vs 1.1, 1.3 vs .6, and 1.4 vs .8 visits per month; all P < .05). The HMO that provided the most total visits had a significantly lower percentage of residents transferred to EDs (6% vs 16%, P = .048), fewer ED visits per resident (0.1 vs .4 per year, P = .027), and fewer hospitalizations per resident (0.1 vs .5 per year, P = .038) than FFS residents; these differences remained significant in multivariate analyses. However, the other two programs did not achieve the same benefits on healthcare utilization.


HMO programs for NH residents provide more primary care and have the potential to reduce ED and hospital use compared with FFS care. However, not all programs have been associated with decreased ED and hospital utilization, perhaps because of differences in structure or implementation problems.

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