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OPTIMISTIC Program Drops Nursing Home Patient Hospitalizations

OPTIMISTIC is one of seven health intervention projects across the country funded by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

A health care program developed by Indiana University researchers has reduced avoidable hospitalizations of long-stay nursing facility residents by 33 percent. The program is called OPTIMISTIC.

Dr. Kathleen Unroe is a scientist for the Regenstrief Institute IU Center for Aging Research. She says the care of long-term nursing home residents with chronic illnesses is often fragmented by hospitalizations which can be burdensome on the health of older adult patients.

“Anytime we can avoid shuttling a frail patient with dementia from the nursing facility to an ambulance to emergency department and care for that person safely in the environment that they know and they are comfortable with, with staff that they know, is something we should strive for,” she says.

In OPTIMISTIC’S initial phase, nurse practitioners were embedded in 19 central Indiana nursing homes, providing direct support to long stay residents and their families as well as facility staff training and education.

Health care costs dropped in that first phase – Medicare expenditures went down by about $1600 over the course of the year for each nursing home resident and Medicare spending dropped by nearly $13.5 million.

Dr. Unroe says the program’s initial success has opened the doors for expanding it to nursing facilities beyond Indiana.

“When we talk about next steps for the optimistic clinical model, we are absolutely thinking that we want to meet the demand that we know is out there on a national level,” she says.

OPTIMISTIC is one of seven health intervention projects across the country funded by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The program has received over $30 million in total funding from CMS.

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