Purpose: The medical cost of diabetes in the United States in 1997 was at least $98 billion. This study illustrates the behavioral change and medical-care utilization impact that occurs in a community-based setting of a diabetes disease-management program that is applied to program participants in a health insurance plan's health maintenance organization and preferred provider organization.
Design: A historical control comparison of diabetes-management participants.
Methodology: One hundred twenty-seven identified diabetes patients are followed from baseline through 1 year. Differences in behavior are compared at program intake and at a 6-month reassessment. Differences in medical-service utilization are compared in the baseline year and the year subsequent to program enrollment. Poisson multivariate-regression models are estimated for counts of inpatient, emergency department, physician evaluation and management, and facility visits, while also controlling for potential confounders.
Principal findings: Behaviors improved between program intake and the 6-month reassessment. From patient reports, the number of participants having a hemoglobin A1c test increased by 44.9 percent (p < .001), and there was a 53.2-percent decrease in symptoms of hyperglycemia (p = .002). From medical claims after program enrollment, a drop occurred during the program year in every dimension of medical-service utilization. Regression results show that in-patient admissions decreased by 391 (p < .001) per 1,000 for each group, while controlling for age, length of membership, and the number of comorbid claims for congestive heart failure. In the analysis of costs that were pre- and post-enrollment, which included disease-management program costs, a 4.34:1 return on investment was calculated.
Conclusion: The diabetes program provides patients with comprehensive information and counseling relative to practicing self-management of diabetes through a number of integrated program components. This study strongly suggests that the implementation of such a program is associated with positive behavioral change and, thus, with substantial reduction in medical-service utilization. In addition, the intervention resulted in a net decrease in direct medical costs.