Background: Among the most resource intensive and challenging of medical needs is the treatment of patients requiring long-term or chronic mechanical ventilation. Expenditures are significant, and definitions of "successful weaning," are often inconsistent. A weaning program was initiated for patients referred to a stand-alone nursing home ventilator unit.
Methods: Weaning entailed standardized weaning protocols, enhanced socialization, a multidisciplinary approach to care, empowerment of staff to initiate weaning, and aggressive utilization of noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) in selected patients.
Results: Sixty-eight (67%) of 102 patients were successfully weaned during a six-year period. NPPV facilitated successful weaning in 27 (26%) of 102 patients. Of the 28 chronic ventilator-dependent patients admitted with a neuromuscular etiology for respiratory failure, NPPV was utilized in 73% (8/11) of the successfully weaned patients. Total variable costs per ventilator per patient per day for the years 1998-2000 were $319.79, $302.75, and $297.59. Six-year cost savings for referring hospitals were estimated at $18.5 million.
Discussion: Incentives were aligned between the hospital, nursing home, and physicians to develop a financially stable model. Developing an off-site nursing home ventilator unit resulted in significant cost savings to the referring hospitals and positively affected patient flow.