The Impact of Tai Chi Exercise on Health Care Utilization and Imputed Cost in Residents of Low-Income Senior Housing

Author: Jennifer Perloff1, Cindy Parks Thomas1, Eric Macklin2,3, Peggy Gagnon2, Timothy Tsai2, Ilean Isaza2, Peter M Wayne2,3,4, Lewis Lipsitz2,3,4,5
1 The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts.
2 Hebrew SeniorLife, Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Boston, Massachusetts.
3 Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
4 Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
5 Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Division of Gerontology, Boston, Massachusetts.
Conference/Journal: Glob Adv Health Med
Date published: 2021 Jan 22
Other: Volume ID: 10 , Pages: 2164956120985479 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1177/2164956120985479. , Word Count: 265

This study was designed to test the impact of Tai Chi (TC) on healthcare utilization and cost in older adults living in low-income senior housing. We hypothesized that TC would improve overall health enough to reduce the use of emergency department (ED) and inpatient services.

Cluster randomized controlled trial with randomization at the housing site level.

Greater Boston, Massachusetts.

The study includes 6 sites with 75 individuals in the TC treatment condition and 6 sites with 67 individuals in the health education control condition.

Members of the treatment group received up to a year-long intervention with twice weekly, in-person TC exercise sessions along with video-directed exercises that could be done independently at home. The comparison group received monthly, in-person healthy aging education classes (HE). Study recruitment took place between August, 2015 and October, 2017. Key outcomes included acute care utilization (inpatient stays, observation stays and emergency department visits). In addition, the cost of utilization was estimated using the age, sex and race adjusted allowed amount from Medicare claims for a geographically similar population aged ≥ 65.

The results suggested a possible reduction in the rate of ED visits in the TC group vs. controls (rate ratio = 0.476, p-value = 0.06), but no findings achieved statistical significance. Adjusted estimates of imputed costs of ED and hospital care were similar between TC and HE, averaging approximately $3,000 in each group.

ED utilization tended to be lower over 6 to 12 months of TC exercises compared to HE in older adults living in low-income housing, although estimated costs of care were similar.

Keywords: Tai Chi; adverse events; cost; healthcare utilization.

PMID: 33598365 PMCID: PMC7841657 DOI: 10.1177/2164956120985479