Getting to the root: Examining within and between home health agency inequities in functional improvement

Shekinah A. Fashaw-Walters, Momotazur Rahman, Olga F. Jarrín, Gilbert Gee, Vincent Mor, Manka Nkimbeng, Kali S. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Objective: To quantify racial, ethnic, and income-based disparities in home health (HH) patients' functional improvement within and between HH agencies (HHAs). Data Sources: 2016–2017 Outcome and Assessment Information Set, Medicare Beneficiary Summary File, and Census data. Data Collection/Extraction Methods: Not Applicable. Study Design: We use multinomial-logit analyses with and without HHA fixed effects. The outcome is a mutually exclusive five-category outcome: (1) any functional improvement, (2) no functional improvement, (3) death while a patient, (4) transfer to an inpatient setting, and (5) continuing HH as of December 31, 2017. The adjusted outcome rates are calculated by race, ethnicity, and income level using predictive margins. Principal Findings: Of the 3+ million Medicare beneficiaries with a HH start-of-care assessment in 2016, 77% experienced functional improvement at discharge, 8% were discharged without functional improvement, 0.6% died, 2% were transferred to an inpatient setting, and 12% continued using HH. Adjusting for individual-level characteristics, Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN), and low-income HH patients were all more likely to be discharged without functional improvement (1.3 pp [95% CI: 1.1, 1.5], 1.5 pp [95% CI: 0.8, 2.1], 1.2 pp [95% CI: 0.6, 1.8], 0.7 pp [95% CI:0.5, 0.8], respectively) compared to White and higher income patients. After including HHA fixed effects, the differences for Black, Hispanic, and AIAN HH patients were mitigated. However, income-based disparities persisted within HHAs. Black-White, Hispanic-White, and AIAN-White disparities were largely driven by between-HHA differences, whereas income-based disparities were mostly due to within-HHA differences, and Asian American/Pacific Islander patients did not experience any observable disparities. Conclusions: Both within- and between-HHA differences contribute to the overall disparities in functional improvement. Mitigating functional improvement inequities will require a diverse set of culturally appropriate and socially conscious interventions. Improving the quality of HHAs that serve more marginalized patients and incentivizing improved equity within HHAs are approaches that are imperative for ameliorating outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14194
JournalHealth Services Research
Volume59
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy

Keywords

  • Medicare home health
  • disability, post-acute care
  • functional improvement
  • health disparities
  • home health agency

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