Medical Respite Programs for Homeless Patients: A Systematic Review

Kelly M. Doran
Kyle T. Ragins
Cary P. Gross
Suzanne Zerger
Peer-Reviewed Article
May 2013


Systematic review finds that medical respite programs reduce acute care utilization outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.


When people experiencing homelessness are discharged from a hospital, they often return to an emergency shelter or to the streets – and these settings are not conducive to recovery and caring for post-acute needs, such as medication management. Medical respite programs provide medical care and social services to patients experiencing homelessness who do not need to be in a hospital but need care in a stable residential setting to recover. This systematic review summarizes the literature on medical respite program outcomes.


Medical respite programs reduced 90-day hospital readmissions, future hospital admissions and hospital days, and hospital length of stay. The review did not identify conclusive outcomes related to cost-effectiveness or emergency department use.


Medical respite programs can improve health and housing outcomes for people experiencing homelessness. Since hospitalizations for these patients last longer and cost more than those for housed patients due to difficulties with care transitions and discharge planning, these programs also have the potential to reduce costs. Providers, payers, and policymakers looking to address the impacts of homelessness should consider investing in medical respite programs.

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