Does formal home care reduce inpatient length of stay?

September 14, 2020

Health Economics, Vol. 29(12), pp. 1620-1636 

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Formal home care is an appropriate substitute for acute hospital care for many older people. However, limited empirical evidence exists on the extent of substitution between the supply of home care and hospital use. This study examines whether patients from areas with a better supply of home care have lower inpatient length of stay (LOS). We link administrative data on over 300,000 public hospital inpatient admissions in Ireland between 2012 and 2015 to region‐year panel data on public home care supply. In addition to modeling average LOS, we estimate unconditional quantile regressions to examine whether home care supply has a disproportionately strong impact on long LOS. We find that inpatients from areas with higher per capita home care supply have lower average LOS; a 10% increase in home care is associated with a 1.2%–2.1% reduction in LOS. This result is driven by the subset of patients with the longest LOS, likely delayed discharges. Stronger results were found for stroke and hip fracture patients, who might be expected to have higher than average propensity to use home care services, and for patients from a region that experienced an unusually large increase in home care supply.