Coordinated care programs fail to lower Medicare costs

    Study: Most programs were unable to reduce the number of patients admitted to the hospital.

    A new study designed to help chronically ill patients avoid expensive hospital stays has uncovered disappointing results.

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    The study was an effort to curb Medicare costs by better coordinating patient care. About half of the study participants received stepped-up care, including regular phone calls from a nurse coordinator. Just two of the 15 programs significantly lowered the number of hospital admissions.

    Study author Randy Brown says the patients who received coordinated care, and those who receive typical treatment had very similar health habits.

    Brown: We asked the patients did you eat a healthy diet? Did you miss two or more doses of medication within the last week or two? Did you exercise regularly? I think one of the disappointing things was that we didn’t see effects on self care. That was one of the things that the programs were really trying to do, so that was kind of disappointing. So that’s one of the things the programs will be continuing to work on.

    Brown calls the overall study results underwhelming but thinks results from the two successful programs may provide clues to the kind of coordinated care that can lead to lower costs and better health. The study appears in Wednesday’s edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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