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Economic Slump Heightens Need for Provider Vigilance in Care of Chronically Ill

Outreach to Maintain Patients' Health Status Essential as Many Forgo Basic Care

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As many Americans forgo prescription drugs, physician visits and other basic care in a slumping economy, the need to maintain continuity of care -- especially for the chronically ill -- has taken on renewed importance, DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance says.

"When you interrupt continuity of care for chronic conditions, you risk slipping backward in health status and creating higher costs later, when those conditions worsen for lack of regular care," says DMAA President and CEO Tracey Moorhead.

Recent reports paint a troubling picture of the response by many Americans to the nation's economic crisis. Surveys from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and CIGNA show as many as a quarter to a third of U.S. consumers have avoided physician visits to save money and that 10 percent or more have delayed refilling prescriptions or taken smaller doses than prescribed to make existing prescriptions last longer.

"This puts physicians and other providers at a disadvantage in their efforts to help patients maintain and improve health status, especially in a reimbursement climate increasingly focused on linking payment to outcomes," Moorhead says. "It is difficult at best to help patients who, out of economic worries, won't help themselves."

Population health improvement can bridge that gap, Moorhead says. "Collaborative teams of health care providers, led by the primary care physician, support patient wellness and care coordination activities," she says. "Working together, providers can leverage that experience and those resources to reach chronically ill patients, including those who might otherwise fall through the cracks as the nation's economic problems persist."

Compounding the problem of deferred care during the economic slowdown is an increased level of stress, a contributing factor to depression, cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. The American Psychological Association reports that almost half of Americans say they are increasingly stressed about their ability to provide for their family's basic needs. Eight out of 10 cited the economy as a significant cause of stress, up 66 percent from six months earlier. Similarly, a National Business Group on Health survey found that one out of four workers said they are more stressed today than they were two years ago and cited finances among the top three causes.

"Clearly, Americans are at increased risk of declining health due to the slowing economy," Moorhead says. "We must remain vigilant in our fight against chronic disease. Cost-effective, clinically proven solutions, such as prevention, wellness and disease management, offer our best tools in that fight."

About DMAA

DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance represents more than 200 organizations and individuals and convenes all stakeholders along the care continuum toward population health improvement. Through advocacy, research and promotion of best practices, DMAA advances population-based strategies to improve care quality and outcomes and reduce preventable costs for individuals with and at risk of chronic conditions.

SOURCE DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance
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