Understand how we got here — and how to move forward.

Our Take

The future of the acute care at home model

20 Minute Read

Acute care at home has demonstrated strong patient satisfaction and quality metrics, especially for the Medicare population. Despite the recent interest in and success of the model, there is uncertainty surrounding its sustainability in a post-pandemic era. For broader adoption, organizations will have to think about long-term funding strategies and reimbursement, cross-industry partnerships, and overcoming the logistical challenges of providing acute care in the home.


What is acute care at home?

A care model that offers patients who typically require hospitalization the option to receive acute-level care in their home. It is often referred to as hospital-at-home. The structure and implementation of acute care at home could vary depending on factors like staffing, conditions treated, the number of visits per day, or the length of the care episode.

Acute care at home services

  • Daily visits from a physician or advanced practice provider (APP), either in-person or through telemedicine
  • Remote monitoring, which includes checking vital signs
  • 24/7 on-call service to respond to any urgent needs
  • Ancillary services brought directly to home, such as lab, medications, equipment, or therapy
  • Social work to coordinate care, address social determinants of health (SDOH), and develop follow-up plans as needed

The conventional wisdom

The acute care at home model has seen widespread implementation internationally, but the United States has seen slower adoption due to reimbursement challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic and the advancement of telehealth promoted growth as providers sought to treat patients with Covid-19, preserve inpatient capacity, and protect vulnerable patients. In 2020, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) gave hospitals the flexibility to care for Medicare patients in their homes with the Acute Hospital Care at Home program. The waiver established Medicare payment for acute care at home and stipulated patients can only be accepted into the program from either the emergency department or after an inpatient admission. By June 2022, more than 242 hospitals across 107 health systems in 36 states were approved by CMS to provide hospital services in a home setting. CMS continues to monitor the effectiveness of the waiver and its application in a post-pandemic environment.

There is widespread interest across the health care industry to grow the acute care at home model. The belief is that the patient’s home, for those who qualify, should be considered an extension of the hospital and serve as a place for high-quality care. Proponents of the model argue that it can reduce costs, improve outcomes, and enhance the patient experience. However, while acute care at home has proven positive from a patient satisfaction and quality standpoint, there isn’t enough evidence of the sustainability of this model in a post-pandemic era. Widespread adoption has and will be hindered by workforce shortages, patchwork reimbursement policies, and the logistical challenges of shifting care to patients’ homes.


Our take

Through our research and conversations with thought leaders on acute care at home, we have uncovered the following three insights:

1. The aging population will contribute to the growth of acute care at home.

As the number of older adults increases, providers and payers are interested in care models that can keep them in the lowest cost setting possible. Well-monitored, at-home treatment can be safer, cheaper, and more effective than traditional hospital care—especially for older adults who are susceptible to infections or other complications from inpatient hospital care. The ongoing demographic shift is also prompting providers to meet older adults’ desire to age in place and better manage chronic disease. Providers who have set up programs during the pandemic to meet these needs, and who have experienced growing acceptance, aren’t likely to backtrack when the pandemic ends.

2. Despite the current wave of interest, acute care at home will serve a small portion of the eligible population.

There is a lot of interest and investment in acute care at home. However, large-scale adoption of this model will likely be hindered by the inherent operational challenges of providing acute-level care in the home. To create a sustainable program, providers will need to generate sufficient volumes while maintaining the staff expertise and infrastructure needed to deliver all the services patients need.

Advisory Board has estimated that 30 percent of current hospital inpatient volumes could theoretically shift to the home, however only five percent of inpatient volume is currently performed in the home even in the most advanced programs. An external analysis by Milliman also suggests that five percent of Medicare admissions are likely to be able to move to the home. Factors limiting the shift in volume includes that patients:

  • Must live within a defined radius of the hospital
  • Have a home that is suitable for acute care at home
  • Want to enroll in this type of program
  • Are eligible based on reimbursement status
  • Do not have complicating comorbidities or other clinical factors that would make the home unsafe

Overall, the shift of inpatient volumes to an acute care at home program will likely be slow and concentrated in niche services.

3. The acute care at home model is best suited for specific use cases.

For providers operating under fee-for-service (FFS), the main use case for acute care at home is to preserve inpatient capacity. Providers can identify candidates for an acute care at home program when they’re in the ED or inpatient hospital bed. There is a potential to improve case mix index and use of hospital inpatient beds for more complex acute care. The CMS waiver currently makes this financially and logistically possible. Pre-pandemic, providers often relied on a bundled payment approach, where they would contract with health plans in risk-based arrangements for 30-to-60-day episodes of care.

For providers in value-based contracts, acute care at home can be an effective way to help lower costs of care while improving patient and caregiver engagement and satisfaction. Cost reduction can come from eliminating facility expenses and reducing the length of hospitalizations and re-admissions.

Examples for how to generate positive ROI from acute care at home programs

  • Expand care team capabilities at the patient's home via telehealth access to offsite specialists
  • Improve patient and caregiver engagement in self-care
  • Monitor vital signs and recovery for longer time periods compared to inpatient monitoring
  • Improve return on assets by centralizing high-acuity patient care
  • Expand inpatient “surge capacity” without the same fixed cost burden of hospitals
  • Create sustainable reimbursement pathways for remote monitoring services and patients requiring “hospital observation”
  • Lower staffing costs through care team redesign and productivity enhancements (especially for high-salaried staff)

Four necessary conditions for broader adoption of acute care at home

For broader adoption of the acute care at home model, the health care industry must consider the following conditions:

More on caring for seniors

Explore the collection of resources that our team has developed to help you understand how the industry is currently caring for older adults (ages 65+), why change is essential, and how industry stakeholders can collaborate to build a better care model for seniors.

  • Condition

    Standard reimbursement structure

    Read More Collapse
  • Condition

    Better definitions for and consensus around quality metrics

    Read More Collapse
  • Condition

    Cross-industry collaboration

    Read More Collapse
  • Condition

    Strategy to overcome barriers of shifting care to the home

    Read More Collapse

How does this model impact industry stakeholders?

The growth of acute care at home will create ripple effects throughout the health care industry. Below, we’ll look at specific impacts for health care stakeholders.


  • If acute care at home is embraced at scale, more patients will receive acute-level care in their homes as opposed to in a facility, and hospitals will have to reconsider hospital bed needs.
  • Providers dealing with greater volumes in their acute care at home program may have to rethink staffing and training needs. Staff workflows might shift dramatically if they are required to travel and see more patients in their homes.
  • Care coordination can become difficult as more patients are cared for in their home. Providers will especially have to consider coordination needs when a patient is admitted and when they are discharged from a program.
  • Providers will have to decide if their program will stand alone as its own service line, fall under another program, or be a part of a joint venture. This decision would change the governance, infrastructure, and funding needed.


  • Payers will have to consider changing reimbursement needs to support the expanded delivery of care in the home—e.g., benefits around remote patient monitoring (RPM), care management, social supports, or assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs).
  • Evaluation of the right metrics is necessary for broadscale adoption of acute care at home. Payers will have to decide what types of metrics and benchmarks are needed to compare quality outcomes.

Vendors (diagnostics, digital health)

  • Diagnostic and digital health vendors will be expected to deal with more data if more patients participate in acute care at home programs. They will have a responsibility to help track and better define quality metrics.
  • Vendors will have to manage the growing diversity of products and services that can be offered in both the home and the hospital. They will also have to seamlessly integrate data and promote interoperability with existing digital infrastructure.
  • Acute care at home programs may soon be able to deal with increasingly acute patients. Vendors may have to adapt their solutions and capabilities to collect new kinds of data or meet new needs. For example, data from remote patient monitoring can be adapted to not just detect, but also predict, early patient deterioration in the home.

Parting thoughts

Although acute care at home has great potential, there are serious hurdles to scale. The shift to acute care at home will be slow and concentrated. It's a model that has significant implications for strategy, and not all will be able to generate a positive ROI from launching a program. Looking towards the future, leaders should consider the following:

  • Acute care at home is part of a broader trend of providing lower cost care and better outcomes for an aging population.
  • The long-term success of acute care at home may hinge on the ability to operate a program under risk.
  • Organizations considering acute care at home will need to complete a thorough assessment of their capabilities to determine partnership and investment needs.

For additional information about caring for an aging population, check out

Have a Question?


Ask our experts a question on any topic in health care by visiting our member portal, AskAdvisory.