Special Care Units Slash Elderly Mortality and Hospital Readmissions

Norway’s introduction of local community healthcare facilities, known as Municipal Acute Units (MAUs), has resulted in lower mortality rates and reduced hospital readmissions for older patients, according to a study by Norwegian researchers.

In the last ten years, Norway has pioneered the establishment of intermediate care units called Municipal Acute Units (MAUs). These units offer a middle ground between hospital and nursing home care for older people with health issues, and are located close to patients’ homes. “Intermediate care units are the newest trend in health policy, and Norway is way ahead of the curve in this regard,” says Pål Erling Martinussen, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

MAUs were mandated across all Norwegian municipalities as part of the healthcare decentralization and coordination reform in 2012. They aim to provide more personalized and integrated services. Martinussen says, “We’ve found that the introduction of these medical units is associated with both lower mortality and fewer readmissions.” This outcome is notably significant for patients over 80 years old, especially when the MAUs are larger and staffed with ample medical professionals.

The researchers from NTNU, SINTEF, and UiO who studied the effects of MAUs suggest that this innovation could be beneficial in other countries with healthcare systems similar to Norway’s. “Our research group believes that countries with a healthcare system similar to Norway’s could achieve good results if they introduced similar local services for their patients,” Martinussen explains.

While the study shows promising results, Martinussen recommends further research to ascertain a direct correlation between MAUs’ introduction and the observed decrease in mortality and hospital readmissions among the elderly.

Reference: Hilland, G.H., Hagen, T.P., Martinussen, P.E. (2023). Stayin’ alive: The introduction of municipal in-patient acute care units was associated with reduced mortality and fewer hospital readmissions. Social Science & Medicine, Volume 326. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.115912.

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