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Hospital-related errors are the third leading cause of death, according to a revealing study from earlier this year. As uncomfortable as that may be, the numbers don’t lie. So what puts hospital care in such a precarious situation?

Listen— One way to cut medical errors: keep patients at home; by Dan Gorenstein of APM’s Marketplace

It’s important to remember is that many of those who suffer from the hospital errors are the elderly. In hospitals, falls may be more common and that can be disastrous for a frail body. There’s also the refusal to eat because of a dislike of the hospital food. But the most dangerous of all is the specter of superbugs, diseases that are immune to many conventional anti-vitals and antibiotics. These are all unfortunate factors that contribute to a problem with mortal consequences, but one New York City hospital is looking into changing that.

Mt. Sinai is taking steps to fight hospital errors by taking patients out of the hospitals. Studies have shown that patients who receive at home treatment are 19% more likely to be alive than those that receive it in a hospital wing. This is especially true for older patients, who may suffer from mobility issues that make it advantageous to be present in familiar surroundings.

At first, one might say that Mt. Sinai’s “Hospital at Home” program is unprecedented, until they realize that it wasn’t that far in the past when doctors or nurses would come to a patient’s home in order to examine or treat them. In addition to the safety benefits that at-home visits offer, they are cheaper, too.

Right now, most the home-care programs are extremely limited because medicare is not quite ready or willing to cover the associated costs. But with two decades’ worth of research backing up Mt. Sinai’s program, the government is keeping it on notice. In addition to lowering overall costs, home treatment reduces readmission and keeps client satisfaction high. There’s also a a logistical challenge as well— getting all of that equipment into a New York City apartment isn’t easy,

As good as this idea is, there is yet another problem: not all patients will be able to care for themselves after treatment. Some ailments may require specialized help; others may just be unable to perform certain routines that were possible in their youth. If too many people are readmitted, then they stand to lose federal funding. On the other hand, high expenditures on keeping patients healthy at home may render the hospital unable to realize its savings. So, Sinai needs to draw then line between who can reliably benefit from at-home care, and who should stay in the hospital bed. It’s quite the challenge, but if the kinks are worked out it could save lives.

Source: APM healthcare