Disease management programs that help guide the care of patients with chronic health problems appear to improve the quality of health care, but there is little evidence that such efforts actually save money, according to a study issued today by the RAND Corporation.
The RAND Health study reviewed all past research on disease management programs, which seek to help patients with conditions like diabetes and congestive heart failure by offering a system of coordinated healthcare interventions. These interventions can range from pre-recorded telephone reminders to home visits by medical professionals.
Researchers selected 29 evaluations, systemic reviews and meta-analyses to focus on, covering 317 unique studies. That review found consistent evidence that these programs can improve health care quality, improve disease control, and, in the case of patients with congestive heart failure, reduce hospital admission rates. But patients with depression who were enrolled in disease management programs were more likely to use outpatient care and prescription drugs, increasing costs. There also is little evidence about whether these programs improve health outcomes over the long term.
Disease management is viewed as the silver bullet that can fix two problems of the health care system inadequate quality and high costs, said Soeren Mattke, lead author of the report and a senior natural scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. Unfortunately, while there is evidence that disease management programs can indeed improve the quality of care, there is no conclusive evidence that they can actually save money.
Health insurance plans and employers nationally in 2005 spent about $1.2 billion on disease management programs, with 96 percent of the top 150 U.S. health insurance companies offering some form of disease management service. The topic also has become a key point in the national health care reform debate, as policymakers search
|Contact: Lisa Sodders|