When my first niece was born, my sister was constantly worried about her. Like many new moms, she was worried that her baby would get hurt or stop breathing or somehow manage to become sick or injured in some way. Though none of that happened, I’m pretty sure she had emergency plans always in the back of her mind and was ready to speed to the emergency room at a moment’s notice.

Some new moms are even more prone to visit the emergency room for any and every little thing, which can get expensive fast. Another option is to have a nurse on call for home visits, but this is also expensive. New research from Duke University has suggested that if home visits were made more available and less expensive, they would help cut down on emergency room visits for infants.

In the study, infants who participated had 50% fewer emergency room visits in the first year of their life. The program also offered discounted services, which many families were willing to use over emergency room services which were expensive and stressful.

"For a relatively small investment, the reward is significant," said lead author Kenneth A. Dodge, the William McDougall Professor of Public Policy and director of Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy.

For the study, researchers used Durham Connects, a program that provides home visits for newborns and their parents in Durham, N.C. Not only were the visits more cost-effective, but they also made emergency rooms visits and overnight stays less likely. This is partly due to the fact that families were able to receive home care and also because of the peace of mind home care gave them. If they knew they had someone on call, families were less likely to use emergency services for every instance of sickness and minor injury compared to control group families.

Emergency rooms visits and overnight stays typically cost thousands of dollars, but the Durham Connects program costs about $700 per family on average. The Affordable Care Act includes funding for home visit programs, and in September, the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced that $69.7 million in grants would be added to expand home visiting services in 13 states.

However, some programs offer a variety of different approaches and can be intensive and multiyear programs that target poor families. These can cost up to $4,000 a year. The new study emphasizes more affordable programs like the Durham Connects program that lasts one year and makes extensive use of referrals.

Source: Duke University (2013, November 1). Home visits lessen emergency care for infants. ScienceDaily.


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