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An innovative new program that bridges hospital with home care has been found to reduce hospital length of stay and cut health care costs associated with treatment for patients with chronic diseases.

Initially created by the St. Joseph's Health System, the Integrated Comprehensive Care (ICC) program is a patient-centered model of care that directly integrates hospital and community care services – striving to create an easy transition for patients from hospital to home.

A new study led by evaluative researchers from the Programs for Assessment of Technology in Health (PATH), The Research Institute of St. Joe's Hamilton, hospital management at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and the St. Joseph's Health System has corroborated the program's effectiveness in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

The study results indicated that the ICC program contributed to reduced COPD patients' length of stay in hospital by almost three days, and showed potential for a reduction in the amount of days patients were hospitalized for after discharge. Both metrics are typically associated with cost savings – while also allowing patients to return home to their families sooner.

COPD is a chronic lung disease that blocks airflow inside the lungs. Patients with COPD experience coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing and shortness of breath. According to Statistics Canada, 13 per cent of Canadians have lung function scores that are indicative of COPD. The study analyzed results from 152 patients diagnosed with COPD in Ontario.

"The ICC program resulted in saving more than 3 days of hospitalization for patients entering the ICC program compared to matched controls while re-admission rates remained similar between ICC and non-ICC patients," says Dr. Jason Guertin, the study's lead author.

Prior research has evaluated the success of the program in acute care settings with patients following chest surgery. A previous study has produced similar findings – noting less time spent in hospital, lower resource use, and lower costs while maintaining the same standard of care.

The study was published in the Canadian Respirology Journal. The integrated comprehensive care program was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

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