Randomized Trial Evaluating Health System Expenditures with Transitional Care Services for Adults with No Usual Source of Care at Discharge

Ronald T Ackermann*, David T. Liss, Dustin Douglas French, Andrew J. Cooper, Cassandra Aikman, Christine Schaeffer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Multidisciplinary transitional care services reduce readmissions for high-risk patients, but it is unclear if health system costs to offer these intensive services are offset by avoidance of higher downstream expenditures. Objective: To evaluate net costs for a health system offering transitional care services Design: One-year pragmatic, randomized trial Participants: Adults aged ≥ 18 without a usual source of follow-up care at the time of hospital discharge were enrolled through a high-volume, urban academic medical center in Chicago, IL, USA, from September 2015 through February 2016. Interventions: Eligible patients were silently randomized before discharge by an automated electronic health record algorithm allocating them in a 1:3 ratio to receive routine coordination of post-discharge care (RC) versus being offered intensive, multidisciplinary transitional care (TC) services. Main Measurements: Health system costs were collected from facility administrative systems and transformed to standardized costs using Medicare reference files. Multivariable generalized linear models estimated proportional differences in net costs over one year. Key Results: Study patients (489 TC; 164 RC) had a mean age of 44 years; 34% were uninsured, 55% had public insurance, and 49% self-identified as Black or Latinx. Over 90 days, cost differences between groups were not statistically significant. Over 180 days, the TC group had 41% lower ED/observation costs (adjusted cost ratio [aCR], 0.59; 95% CI, 0.36–0.97), 50% lower inpatient costs (aCR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.27–0.95), and 41% lower total healthcare costs (aCR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.36–0.99) than the RC group. Over 365 days, total cost differences remained of similar magnitude but no longer were statistically significant. Conclusions: Offering TC services for vulnerable adults at discharge reduced net health system expenditures over 180 days. The promising economic case for multidisciplinary transitional care interventions warrants further research. Trial Registration: National Clinical Trials Registry (NCT03066492)

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • economic
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • transitional care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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