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Green Houses: A Model of Future Care?

by John Moore | June 24, 2008

Today’s WSJ had a very good front page article on the concept Green Houses.  Green Houses are a concept championed by a certain Dr. Thomas, a doctor who worked in geriatrics at traditional nursing homes and figured there must be a better way of caring for the elderly.  He made his pitch to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and low and behold, they are now funding the concept to a tune of $15M.

So what is a Green House?  Basically a nursing home, with the emphasis on home rather than the more traditional “God’s Waiting Rooms” you see in most nursing homes today.  Green Houses are small, with 10-12 residents and seek to provide a close and interactive community within the “home”.  Early results, at least what I gleaned from the article are that this does work for residents – they are happier.

But it is not without its fair share of challenges.  First, like just about anything in healthcare, it seems, there are a plethora of regulations to deal with and in this case, many of them work at cross purposes to the Green House concept.  Then there is the question of financial viability.  Certainly, in a large facility there may be economies of scale that one would not be able to replicate in a Green Home.  But is that the only thing that one should focus on – scalability?  While RWJF readily admits they need to do more work on what is a viable financial model for Green Homes, some early examples are working, extracting savings in novel ways to be financially sustainable.

Currently, only 41 Green Homes exist today across 10 states.  Plan is to roll the concept out across all 50 states.  A noble plan and I hope they succeed.

And might a similar scenario play out for other healthcare organizations. That’s not to say that all hospitals will become smaller, let’s call them Blue Homes, but there maybe something here in realigning care, particularly long-term care along this concept and there something to learn in tracking the evolution of the Green Home.

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