Reductions in Costly Healthcare Service Utilization: Findings from the Care Advocate Program

Authors

  • George R. Shannon PhD,

    1. From the *Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Center of Excellence, Los Angeles, CaliforniaAndrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CaliforniaChief Medical Officer, Greater Newport Physicians IPA, Newport Beach, California.
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  • Kathleen H. Wilber PhD,

    1. From the *Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Center of Excellence, Los Angeles, CaliforniaAndrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CaliforniaChief Medical Officer, Greater Newport Physicians IPA, Newport Beach, California.
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  • Douglas Allen MD

    1. From the *Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Center of Excellence, Los Angeles, CaliforniaAndrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CaliforniaChief Medical Officer, Greater Newport Physicians IPA, Newport Beach, California.
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Address correspondence to George R. Shannon, PhD, VA Greater Los Angeles Center of Excellence, 16111 Plummer St. (152), Bldg. 25, Sepulveda, CA 91343. E-mail: gshannon@usc.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To determine whether a telephone care-management intervention for high-risk Medicare health maintenance organization (HMO) health plan enrollees can reduce costly medical service utilization.

DESIGN: Randomized, controlled trial measuring healthcare services utilization over three 12-month periods (pre-, during, and postintervention).

SETTING: Two social service organizations partnered with a Medicare HMO and four contracted medical groups in southern California.

PARTICIPANTS: Eight hundred twenty-three patients aged 65 and older; eligibility was determined using an algorithm to target older adults with high use of insured healthcare services.

INTERVENTION: After assessment, members in the intervention group were offered mutually agreed upon referrals to home- and community-based services (HCBS), medical groups, or Medicare HMO health plan and followed monthly for 1 year.

MEASUREMENTS: Insured medical service utilization was measured across three 12-month periods. Acceptance and utilization of Care Advocate (CA) referrals were measured during the 12-month intervention period.

RESULTS: CA intervention members were significantly more likely than controls to use primary care physician services (odds ratio (OR)=2.05, P<.001), and number of hospital admissions (OR=0.43, P<.01) and hospital days (OR=0.39, P<.05) were significantly more stable for CA group members than for controls.

CONCLUSION: Results suggest that a modest intervention linking older adults to HCBS may have important cost-saving implications for HMOs serving community-dwelling older adults with high healthcare service utilization. Future studies, using a national sample, should verify the role of telephone care management in reducing the use of costly medical services.

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