Hughes SL, Weaver FM, Giobbie-Hurder A, Manheim L, Henderson W, Kubal JD, Ulasevich A, Cummings J, for the Department of Veterans Affairs Cooperative Study Group on Home-Based
Primary Care . Effectiveness of Team-Managed Home-Based Primary CareA Randomized Multicenter Trial. JAMA. 2000;284(22):2877-2885. doi:10.1001/jama.284.22.2877
Author Affiliations: Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center, Edward A. Hines Jr Veterans Affairs Hospital, Hines, Ill (Drs Hughes, Henderson, and Ulasevich and Ms Giobbie-Hurder); Center for Research on Health and Aging, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago (Dr Hughes); Midwest Center for Health Services and Policy Research, Edward A. Hines Jr Veterans Affairs Hospital (Drs Weaver and Manheim and Mr Kubal); Institute for Health Services Research and Policy Studies, Northwestern University, Evanston Ill (Drs Weaver and Manheim); Veterans Integrated Services Network 12, Hines, Ill (Dr Cummings).
Context Although home-based health care has grown over the past decade, its
effectiveness remains controversial. A prior trial of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Team-Managed Home-Based Primary Care (TM/HBPC) found favorable outcomes, but
the replicability of the model and generalizability of the findings are unknown.
Objectives To assess the impact of TM/HBPC on functional status, health-related
quality of life (HR-QoL), satisfaction with care, and cost of care.
Design and Setting Multisite randomized controlled trial conducted from October 1994 to
September 1998 in 16 VA medical centers with HBPC programs.
Participants A total of 1966 patients with a mean age of 70 years who had 2 or more
activities of daily living impairments or a terminal illness, congestive heart
failure (CHF), or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Intervention Home-based primary care (n = 981), including a primary care manager,
24-hour contact for patients, prior approval of hospital readmissions, and
HBPC team participation in discharge planning, vs customary VA and private
sector care (n = 985).
Main Outcome Measures Patient functional status, patient and caregiver HR-QoL and satisfaction,
caregiver burden, hospital readmissions, and costs over 12 months.
Results Functional status as assessed by the Barthel Index did not differ for
terminal (P = .40) or nonterminal (those with severe
disability or who had CHF or COPD) (P = .17) patients
by treatment group. Significant improvements were seen in terminal TM/HBPC
patients in HR-QoL scales of emotional role function, social function, bodily
pain, mental health, vitality, and general health. Team-Managed HBPC nonterminal
patients had significant increases of 5 to 10 points in 5 of 6 satisfaction
with care scales. The caregivers of terminal patients in the TM/HBPC group
improved significantly in HR-QoL measures except for vitality and general
health. Caregivers of nonterminal patients improved significantly in QoL measures
and reported reduced caregiver burden (P = .008).
Team-Managed HBPC patients with severe disability experienced a 22% relative
decrease (0.7 readmissions/patient for TM/HBPC group vs 0.9 readmissions/patient
for control group) in hospital readmissions (P =
.03) at 6 months that was not sustained at 12 months. Total mean per person
costs were 6.8% higher in the TM/HBPC group at 6 months ($19,190 vs $17,971)
and 12.1% higher at 12 months ($31,401 vs $28,008).
Conclusions The TM/HBPC intervention improved most HR-QoL measures among terminally
ill patients and satisfaction among non–terminally ill patients. It
improved caregiver HR-QoL, satisfaction with care, and caregiver burden and
reduced hospital readmissions at 6 months, but it did not substitute for other
forms of care. The higher costs of TM/HBPC should be weighed against these
Although home-based health care has grown prodigiously over the past
decade,1,2 controversy persists
concerning its effectiveness.3,4
In part, this controversy reflects the substantial heterogeneity that exists
across home-based care programs, users, and outcomes.5,6
An early study of a primary care home-based care model for The Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) found significant benefits.7- 9
The VA Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC) program differs in important ways from
the Medicare home health care benefit. It is financed prospectively at the
facility level, enabling clinicians to exercise considerable clinical judgment
regarding patient targeting and length of home care stay. Physicians are salaried
staff who designate a specific percentage of time to the HBPC program. This
feature enables referring physicians to transfer primary care management of
patients at discharge to the HBPC physician and medical team who continue
to provide primary care management inside and outside of the hospital until
the patients are discharged from the program. Other disciplines encompassed
by the home care team can include social workers, dietitians, therapists,
pharmacists, and health technicians (paraprofessional aides).
A prior VA study examined HBPC at a single site that targeted hospitalized
patients with severe disability (2 or more activities of daily living [ADL]
impairments) or terminal illness. This earlier trial of Team-Managed HBPC
(TM/HBPC) found improved satisfaction with care among patients and caregivers
that was accompanied by a 29% (P = .03) reduction
in hospital readmission costs.7
Although these early findings were promising, a more definitive study
using a more clearly delineated model and a larger number of participating
hospitals was necessary to assess the impact of the model on an expanded set
of patient and caregiver outcomes and on health care costs across the VA system.
Specifically, we tested whether the model would improve patient functional
status, patient and caregiver health-related quality-of-life (HR-QoL), and
satisfaction with care and decrease hospital readmissions. The impact on total
health care costs also was assessed.
This multisite, randomized, controlled trial was conducted from October
1994 to September 1998 at 16 VA medical centers (VAMCs) that had an HBPC program,
an involved home-based care physician, and an interest in testing this new
home-based care model. Before the study began, study personnel met for 2 days
to train in implementing the study protocol and the TM/HBPC model. Site investigators
continued to meet annually during the course of the study, and telephone calls
were held monthly to discuss study protocol and model implementation issues.
The trial was reviewed and approved by the Human Rights Committee of the Hines
VA Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center, Hines, Ill, and by the
research and human subjects subcommittees of each participating VAMC.
Hospitalized patients were eligible if they lived within the 25- to
35-mile catchment area served by their hospital's HBPC program and had 2 or
more ADL impairments or a prognosis of terminal illness. Patients who did
not meet the latter 2 criteria, but were homebound with a primary diagnosis
of congestive heart failure (CHF) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD), also were included. Patients referred from outpatient clinics or nursing
homes with the same diagnoses were eligible if they had been hospitalized
within the past 3 months. Patients with a primary diagnosis of psychiatric
illness, alcoholism, substance abuse, or spinal cord injury were excluded.
Eligible patients who refused to participate in the study were able to access
HBPC but were not included as study participants.
Research staff screened all patients admitted to medicine, surgery,
and neurology units at each hospital. Written informed consent was obtained
from eligible patients and caregivers, baseline data were collected, and patients
were stratified prior to randomization by site, diagnosis, and age (younger
than 65 years vs 65 years or older). Random assignments to the TM/HBPC group
or to customary postdischarge care were made by telephoning the statistical
coordinating center. Repeat measures of patient- and caregiver-centered outcomes
were obtained at baseline, 1, 6, and 12 months, and health care use and cost
data were monitored continuously over 12 months.
Patients were randomized into a treatment group (TM/HBPC intervention)
and a control group. Patients were further subdivided into those who were
terminally ill (terminal group) and those who were not terminally ill (nonterminal
group; defined as those patients with severe disability or who had CHF or
COPD) for analysis purposes.
Treatment Group. The TM/HBPC treatment delineated structure and process components of
home-based care management that were provided as an overlay to the care routinely
provided by HBPC (Table 1). It
incorporated key features of integrated networks, including systematic screening
to identify high-risk patients, an emphasis on continuity of care, and the
management of patients across organizational boundaries.10
Participating sites were asked to provide continuous patient care management
with the home-based care physician serving as the primary care physician.
Patients continued to receive home care for as long as needed, until maximum
patient benefit was achieved, or until a different level of care was required.
Sites used clinical judgment to provide visits based on patient condition
Control Group. Patients in the control group could access any VA-sponsored services
for which they were eligible with the exception of HBPC, and non-VA postacute
services for which they were eligible, such as Medicare home health or hospice
care, and were encouraged to speak with their physicians about aftercare needs.
Patient- and Caregiver-Centered. Patient functional status was assessed using the Barthel Index.11 Patient and caregiver HR-QoLs were assessed using
the Medical Outcomes Study, short form, 36-item (MOS SF-36) subscales.12 Subscale items also were aggregated into a Mental
Component Scale (MCS) and a Physical Component Scale (PCS), to compare physical
and mental health HR-QoL outcomes.13 Patient
and caregiver satisfaction with the patient's care was assessed using selected
Ware Satisfaction with Care scales.14 Scores
were transformed so that each subscale score ranged from 0 (total dissatisfaction)
to 100 (total satisfaction). Caregiver burden was assessed using the Montgomery
scale, which examines objective and subjective burden.15
Costs. Veteran Affair and non-VA health care use and costs were monitored for
12 months. Veterans Affairs hospital, nursing home, outpatient, and TM/HBPC
use were abstracted from national data files, and durable medical equipment
and pharmacy use were obtained from local hospital computer systems. Private
sector use and cost data were obtained from Health Care Financing Administration
(HCFA) data tapes for Medicare-reimbursed services and from patient self-reports
that were confirmed with providers (eg, hospitals, home health agencies, and
nursing homes, in 20% of cases for which HCFA data were not available because
patients were younger than 65 years and not eligible for Medicare). Number
of readmission days, rates of readmission per patient, proportion of patients
readmitted, and total units of service used across all other services were
computed to compare use of VA and non-VA services by group.
Veterans Affairs costs were obtained by multiplying use by the cost
per unit of use in fiscal year 1996. Unit costs were obtained for each VAMC
from the VA Cost Distribution Reports, adjusted to account for any reporting
errors in assigning staff to the HBPC program.16
Mean costs across the VAMCs were calculated and used in the analyses, and
a sensitivity analysis was performed to learn whether using site-specific
costs changed the results.17,18
Private sector hospital costs were calculated as hospital charges, multiplied
by the hospital's cost-to-charge ratio. Other Medicare costs were estimated
by Medicare reimbursement to the facility and adjusted, when appropriate,
for the Medicare 20% coinsurance rate. For the 20% of patients and for services
not covered by Medicare, self-reported use data, confirmed by hospitals, home
care, and nursing home providers, were used. Where billing data were not provided,
they were imputed based on available Medicare and billing data at each site.
All non-VA costs were adjusted to 1996 costs using the appropriate medical
care producer cost inflation index.
Other Variables. The Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire was used to screen for
presence of cognitive impairment.19 The Smith
Comorbidity Index was used to assess risk of rehospitalization.20
Implementation of the Model. The TM/HBPC model consisted of 6 components (Table 1). Implementation was assessed through annual surveys of
study sites, examination of patient baseline data (Smith Comorbidity Index
assessment of patient risk), telephone calls to patients, participant observation
by research staff at site TM/HBPC team meetings, and monitoring VA administrative
databases. Compliance ranged from 94% for patient targeting and designation
of a primary care manager to 56% for involvement in readmission discharge
Success of randomization was determined by comparing the baseline characteristics
of the treatment group with the control group using the χ2
test for categorical variables, t test for normally
distributed continuous variables, and the Wilcoxon rank-sum test for nonnormally
distributed continuous variables.
Patients continued in the study for 1 year unless they died, withdrew,
or were lost to follow-up. Patient- and caregiver-centered outcome measures
were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of covariance. Patients and
caregivers were included in the analyses if they responded to at least 1 of
3 posttests. Covariates included baseline score, diagnostic group, age group,
and site. Because patients who were terminally ill had substantially poorer
prognoses than patients who were not terminally ill, outcomes for the terminal
vs nonterminal patients were modeled and reported separately. Use/cost data
were analyzed using Wilcoxon rank-sum tests of readmission rates, use rates,
lengths of stay, number of visits, and costs. χ2 Tests were
performed on the proportion of patients who were readmitted. Cost data were
analyzed using intent-to-treat and as-treated analyses (ie, patients were
grouped by randomization assignment in the first analysis and by the treatment
they actually received in the second analysis).
A total of 1966 patients and 1883 caregivers were enrolled and randomized:
981 patients were randomized to the treatment group and 985 were randomized
to the control group (Figure 1).
Baseline demographic and clinical characteristics of participants showed no
significant differences (Table 2).
More than 90% of patients were male with a mean age of 70 years. A majority
were married, approximately 30% were African American, and 30% had incomes
less than $10,000 per year. A majority (75%) of patients had severe disability,
20% were terminally ill, and 5% were homebound with a primary diagnosis of
either CHF or COPD. Across all diagnostic groups, 55% had any CHF or COPD
(data not shown). Patients had a mean of 3.2 ADL impairments, with the most
common impairments being in bathing, dressing, and transferring. About 80%
of patients resided with a family caregiver. A majority of patients were at
medium-to-high risk of rehospitalization, and 88% had been hospitalized in
the 6 months prior to enrollment. Family caregivers were largely female, had
a mean age of 62 years, a mean Montgomery scale score for objective burden
of 32 and for subjective burden of 25, indicating a moderate amount of burden
Baseline values of patient- and caregiver-centered outcomes showed no
statistically significant differences between treatment groups for either
patients or caregivers (Table 3).
Patients had very low MOS SF-36 physical function, physical role function,
and PCS scores, consistent with their ADL impairments and history of hospital
Data on implementation of the TM/HBPC model (Table 1) show sites succeeded in targeting care to high-risk patients
and designating a primary care manager but were less successful providing
24-hour emergency contact for patients, being notified of and preapproving
elective hospital readmissions, transferring patients to step-down beds, and
working with hospital inpatient staff on discharge planning during readmissions.
Quarterly telephone calls to patients by research staff found that approximately
30% of patients in both groups experienced an emergency after hours; however,
TM/HBPC patients were significantly more likely to know who to call (P<.001) (data not shown).
Seventy-eight percent of patients (769/981) randomized to the TM/HBPC
group used HBPC services during the study period (Figure 1). Six percent (n = 56) of treatment and 5% (n = 49) of
control patients either died during or went to a nursing home immediately
following the index hospital admission. In the treatment group, another 156
TM/HBPC patients used 1 visit or less. Of these 156 patients, 22% (n = 34)
died after discharge but before receiving HBPC, 19% (n = 30) were deemed inappropriate
for care by HBPC staff, 23% (n = 36) refused TM/HBPC, 11% (n = 17) could not
be accommodated by HBPC at the time of referral, and 25% (n = 39) did not
receive HBPC for various other reasons. Of patients assigned to the control
group, 9% (n = 87) received 2 or more HBPC visits.
During the 12-month study period, 3.0% (n = 29) of treatment and 3.2%
(n = 32) of control patients were lost to follow-up, 4.6% of patients (n =
45) in the treatment group vs 7.0% of patients (n = 69) in the control group
refused to continue to participate, and 34.7% of the patients (n = 340) in
the treatment group vs 34.1% of patients (n = 336) in the control group died
(χ2, P = .08). Use and cost outcomes
were obtained for decedents up until the date of death.
Mean length of home care stay for the TM/HBPC group was 5.6 months with
a median of 4.5 months. Of treatment group patients, 58% were discharged from
TM/HBPC within 6 months. Team-Managed HBPC patients received a mean (SD) of
0.85 (1.5) physician visits, 3 (2.0) nursing visits, and 0.5 (0.6) social
work visits per month. Physicians also spent a mean (SD) of 24.3 (25.6) hours
per month consulting on primary care management and attending weekly team
meetings to review patient care.
Control group patients could access private sector non-VA home health
and hospice care if eligible. Approximately 5.9% of control group patients
(n = 59) used hospice care, with a mean (SD) length of stay of 48.5 (61.4)
days, and 49% (n = 483) used private sector home health care for a mean (SD)
of 102 (106) days and a median of 59 days (2 months). Nursing visits also
predominated among Medicare home health care users with 46% of visits provided
by skilled nurses, 42% by home health aides, 9% by physical therapists, and
3% by occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and social workers. When
control group access to private sector home care was examined by age, patients
65 years and older were significantly more likely to use home-based care (48%)
than those younger than 65 years (41%) (P = .02),
probably as a function of their Medicare eligibility.
Patient Outcomes. Control vs TM/HBPC treatment coefficients from repeated measures analyses
of covariance that were performed separately for terminal and nonterminal
patients are shown in Table 4.
Positive coefficients indicate a treatment effect favoring the TM/HBPC group
and negative coefficients favor the control group. The coefficients reflect
the differences in TM/HBPC group vs control group mean changes in outcomes
over time adjusted for baseline values and stratification variables. No difference
was observed in functional status (Barthel Index) among terminal or nonterminal
patients by treatment group. However, terminal patients in the treatment group
improved significantly vs those in the control group in 6 of 8 HR-QoL scales,
including emotional role function, social function, bodily pain, mental health,
vitality, and general health. For nonterminal patients, no HR-QoL differences
were seen by group with the exception of a significant decrease in bodily
pain in the control group, and no significant differences were seen by group
in PCS or MCS scores. There was no difference in patient satisfaction with
care among terminal patients during 12 months. However, nonterminal patients
in the treatment group reported significant increases of 5 to10 points in
5 of 6 dimensions of satisfaction with care while scores for the control group
remained the same or declined slightly.
Caregiver Outcomes. Caregiver outcomes that were derived from the same analyses as those
used for patient outcomes are shown in Table 5. Positive coefficients indicate a treatment effect favoring
the TM/HBPC group, and negative coefficients favor the control group, except
for caregiver burden scores in which the opposite is true. Caregiver ratings
of functional status (Barthel Index) for terminal patients showed no significant
difference by group (P = .40) but were significantly
higher among caregivers of nonterminal patients in the control group (P = .001). All other caregiver outcomes favored the treatment
group. Caregivers of terminal patients in the TM/HBPC group showed significant
HR-QoL improvements (P<.05 overall) compared with
the control patients in all but 2 dimensions of the MOS SF-36, the exceptions
being vitality and general health. Similar to terminal patients, they showed
the greatest amount of improvement (10 points) in emotional role function.
Caregivers of nonterminal patients in the TM/HBPC group also improved significantly
in 6 MOS SF-36 dimensions (range, P<.001 to P = .004) compared with the control group, with the most
pronounced effects occurring in social functioning, general health, and physical
function (P<.001). The only dimensions that did
not improve significantly were physical and emotional role functioning (P = .07 and P = .20, respectively).
No significant differences were seen between groups on PCS and MCS scores
for caregivers of terminal patients (P = .12 and P = .06, respectively), but significant benefits were seen
in both scores for TM/HBPC caregivers of nonterminal patients (P = .01). Caregivers of the TM/HBPC group of terminal and nonterminal
patients showed significant gains (on average 7-8 points in the terminal group
[range, P<.001 to P =
.005] and 3.80-9.5 points in the nonterminal group [P<.001])
in satisfaction with patient care compared with the control group, with the
exception of personal satisfaction among caregivers of the terminal patients
in the TM/HBPC group (P = .10). Finally, TM/HBPC
caregivers of nonterminal patients reported a significant decline in objective
burden compared with controls (P = .008).
The impact on VA hospital readmissions (Table 6) for all patients by treatment group and by disease stratum
shows a 7.9% (P = .07) relative reduction in proportion
of TM/HBPC group patients admitted in the first 6 months, with most of the
reduction occurring among those with severe disability; however, this reduction
was not sustained at 12 months. Similarly, an 11% (P
= .06) relative reduction in mean number of TM/HBPC group readmissions was
seen at 6 months but was not sustained at 12 months. This relative reduction
was 22% (P = .03) in the subset with severe disability.
Finally, no significant group differences were seen in number of rehospitalization
days at 6 or 12 months.
Veterans Affairs health care, private sector care, and total costs for
treatment and control groups (all disease strata combined) were compared at
6 and 12 months. At 6 months, VA hospital readmission costs for the TM/HBPC
group were lower, but home-based care and nursing home care costs were significantly
higher than the control group costs (data not shown). Despite significantly
lower private sector costs, total TM/HBPC costs were 6.8% higher than the
total control group costs. At 12 months (Table 7), HBPC (P<.001) and nursing
home (P = .02) costs were significantly higher for
the TM/HBPC group than the control group, and only outpatient costs were significantly
lower in the TM/HBPC group compared with the control group (P = .02). As a result, total VA costs were 18.1% higher in the TM/HBPC
group (P< .001). This increase was partially offset
by a 9% reduction in the TM/HBPC group for private sector or non-VA costs
(P<.001). However, total costs of VA and private
sector care combined were 12.1% higher for the TM/HBPC group (P = .005). This $3000 difference was approximately equal to the cost
of the TM/HBPC intervention and amounted to a mean add-on of $282 per client
per month. Sensitivity analyses substituting facility-specific costs vs those
averaged across facilities for VA costs and using Medicare charges as opposed
to reimbursement produced the same findings, as did an as treated analysis.
This multisite randomized trial found no difference in patient functional
status outcomes; however, terminally ill patients demonstrated significant
improvements in HR-QoL, including a 13-point gain in emotional role functioning
compared with controls, and nonterminal patients reported significantly higher
satisfaction with care (ranging from a 5-point gain for access to a 9-point
gain for communication) across 5 of 6 satisfaction subscales.
This is the first home-based care effectiveness study, to our knowledge,
to assess impact on caregiver HR-QoL, caregiver satisfaction with the patient's
care, and caregiver burden. Consistent benefits in the treatment group were
observed in these outcomes. Although a significant improvement was seen in
caregiver ratings of functional status of nonterminal control group patients,
it was very small (point change of 0.1 in a 100-point scale), and all other
caregiver outcomes favored the TM/HBPC group. These outcomes included significant
HR-QoL benefits for caregivers in the TM/HBPC group of both types of patients,
including a 10-point increase in emotional role functioning among caregivers
of terminally ill patients. Caregivers in the TM/HBPC group of both types
of patients also reported systematic increases in satisfaction with their
family member's care, ranging from 7 to 10 points. Finally, we believe that
this is one of the first home-based care studies to demonstrate a significant
benefit of treatment on objective caregiver burden among caregivers of nonterminal
These patient and caregiver benefits were accompanied by an 8% reduction
in proportion of patients with hospital readmissions and a 22% reduction in
number of hospital readmissions among the patients with severe disability
in the TM/HBPC group at 6 months that were not sustained at 12 months, and
no reduction in number of days or cost of bed days was seen at either time
period. As a result, patient and caregiver benefits were accompanied by a
6.8% increase in total costs of care at 6 months and a 12.1% increase at 12
The cost findings may reflect site difficulties implementing this complex
model. This trial took place over 4 years at 16 hospitals across the United
States when a considerable amount of change was occurring in the VA health
care system. During this time, several facilities closed their step-down units
because of declining lengths of stay and several physicians and home care
staff who were on board at the inception of the study moved on to other positions
and were replaced by staff who may not have been as well versed in the model.
More time devoted to ongoing site training and/or monitoring, simplification
of the model, or some type of use/cost feedback might have improved cost outcomes.
Although roughly half of the control group patients in this study received
private sector (mainly Medicare) home health care, neither they nor their
caregivers showed the same HR-QoL and satisfaction benefits. Thus, this hospital-based
primary care home care model appears to promote better patient and caregiver
outcomes. We believe that greater perceived continuity and coordination of
care that is possible within a vertically integrated care system is responsible
for these outcomes. However, given a multiple component intervention, it is
impossible to attribute the improvement to a single factor.
The findings of improved PCS and MCS scores and reduced burden among
caregivers of patients with severe disability are noteworthy. These patients
constitute an open-ended commitment for family caregivers. Recent findings
indicate that such caregiving is not without cost. The national economic value
of informal caregiving is estimated to have been $196 billion in 1997, compared
with national expenditures that same year of $32 billion for formal home health
care and $83 billion for nursing home care.21
Caregiver burden has been shown to be associated with poor mental and physical
HR-QoL,22 and spousal caregivers who experience
emotional strain have been shown to be 63% more likely to die within 4 years
than noncaregivers,23 indicating that caregiver
outcomes must be considered in assessing home-care effectiveness.
Findings from this VA study may not be generalizable to the private
sector. However, primary care management of the increasingly complex types
of patients cared for at home is an important issue in both the VA and the
private sectors. Although previous critiques of the home-based care literature
have charged that programs must target "high risk" patients to achieve cost
critics only now are beginning to recognize a concomitant need to develop
the capacity to clinically and cost-effectively manage these patients' conditions
at home. Recent single-site private sector home care trials that have both
targeted high-risk patients and used either disease-specific care management
protocols or advance practice nurses to manage the transitional care of patients
have documented impressive 6-month cost savings.26- 28
The comparative benefits of these new models, their impact on family caregivers,
their replicability, and the generalizability of their results are unknown
and constitute a pressing area for future home-based care research.