The Effects of Home Health Visit Length on Hospital Readmission

Elena Andreyeva, Guy David, Hummy Song

NBER Working Paper No. 24566
Issued in April 2018
NBER Program(s):The Health Care Program, The Health Economics Program

Home health care has experienced significant growth as an industry and is viewed as one of the avenues for achieving reductions in the cost and utilization of expensive downstream health care services. Using a novel dataset on home health care visits, this study quantifies the effects of reduced time spent with patients during a post-acute home health visit on hospital readmissions. We focus in particular on the subset of patients with conditions that are subject to penalty under the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program. Since both visit length and readmission risk are likely to be correlated with unobserved illness severity, we use the daily sequence of provider visits and deviation from the provider’s average daily workload as instruments for visit length. We find that patients who are visited later in the provider’s day as well as those who are visited by a provider who has a higher than usual workload experience home health visits that are shorter than usual. Using our instruments and controlling for patient, visit, and provider characteristics, we find that home health visits that are longer than usual by one minute reduce the risk of hospital readmission by approximately 8 percent. These effects seem to be driven by providers with higher levels of discretion in their time management and care provision. We suggest several approaches that managers could take to attain reductions in readmissions without incurring significant additional costs.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24566

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