Impact of home care on hospital days: a meta analysis

Health Serv Res. 1997 Oct;32(4):415-32.


Objective: To examine the impact of home care on hospital days.

Data sources: Search of automated databases covering 1964-1994 using the key words "home care," "hospice," and "healthcare for the elderly." Home care literature review references also were inspected for additional citations.

Study selection: Of 412 articles that examined impact on hospital use/cost, those dealing with generic home care that reported hospital admissions/cost and used a comparison group receiving customary care were selected (N = 20).

Study design: A meta-analytic analysis used secondary data sources between 1967 and 1992.

Data extraction: Study characteristics that could have an impact on effect size (i.e., country of origin, study design, disease characteristics of study sample, and length of follow-up) were abstracted and coded to serve as independent variables. Available statistics on hospital days necessary to calculate an effect size were extracted. If necessary information was missing, the authors of the articles were contacted.

Methods: Effect sizes and homogeneity of variance measures were calculated using Dstat software, weighted for sample size. Overall effect sizes were compared by the study characteristics described above.

Principal findings: Effect sizes indicate a small to moderate positive impact of home care in reducing hospital days, ranging from 2.5 to 6 days (effect sizes of -.159 and -.379, respectively), depending on the inclusion of a large quasi-experimental study with a large treatment effect. When this outlier was removed from analysis, the effect size for studies that targeted terminally ill patients exclusively was homogeneous across study subcategories; however, the effect size of studies that targeted nonterminal patients was heterogeneous, indicating that unmeasured variables or interactions account for variability.

Conclusion: Although effect sizes were small to moderate, the consistent pattern of reduced hospital days across a majority of studies suggests for the first time that home care has a significant impact on this costly outcome.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / economics
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Effect Modifier, Epidemiologic
  • Health Services for the Aged / economics
  • Health Services for the Aged / statistics & numerical data
  • Home Care Services, Hospital-Based* / economics
  • Home Care Services, Hospital-Based* / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospice Care / economics
  • Hospice Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay* / economics
  • Length of Stay* / statistics & numerical data
  • Mental Health Services / economics
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data