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Meal delivery linked to fewer ED visits, lower costs, study finds

Providing home-delivered meals to food insecure people may decrease healthcare spending, according to a study published by Health Affairs (Source: “Study: Meal delivery programs linked to fewer emergency visits, lower costs,” Becker’s Hospital Review, April 3, 2018).

For the study, researchers examined data for members of a Boston-based nonprofit healthcare organization that serves adults ages 21 to 64 who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare.

Researchers found medically tailored meals program participants experienced fewer emergency department visits, inpatient admissions and emergency transportation use compared with nonparticipants. They said nontailored food program participants also saw fewer ED visits and emergency transportation use, but not fewer inpatient admissions.

Additionally, both the medically tailored meal program and the nontailored food program were associated with lower medical spending, according to the study. The estimated average monthly medical spending per person was $843 for the medically tailored meals program compared with $1,413 for nonparticipants. For the nontailored food program, it was $1,007 for participants and $1,163 for nonparticipants.

"These findings suggest the potential for meal delivery programs to reduce the use of costly healthcare and decrease spending for vulnerable patients," the study authors concluded.