Objective: To review the clinical and economic impact of atherothrombosis, the use of antiplatelet therapy for patients with atherothrombosis, and the impact of disease management programs on quality improvement and health care costs.
Summary: Atherothrombosis is a new term that describes the formation of a thrombus on an existing atherosclerotic plaque. While simple, this pathophysiologic mechanism underlies a vast array of vascular diseases, including myocardial infarction, ischemia, peripheral arterial disease, vascular death, and many forms of stroke. In fact, atherothrombosis is the leading cause of death worldwide. Treatment approaches include lifestyle modification and the use of pharmacologic agents such as lipid-lowering therapy, antihypertensive agents, hypoglycemic therapy, ACE inhibitors, and beta-blockers. Despite these treatments, studies have indicated that not all patients receive recommended therapies. The continuing upward spiral in health care costs in the United States has spurred numerous initiatives aimed at improving the quality of care while maintaining or reducing costs. Among these approaches to quality improvement are programs that promote adherence to evidence-based clinical data, including published guidelines, and improve the appropriate use of pharmaceuticals. Although expenditures for prescription drugs are rising, they remain a minority of overall health care expenditures, and evidence suggests that improved usage of medications can reduce other direct costs, such as hospitalizations and inpatient care, which may account for a far greater proportion of total costs.
Conclusion: The utilization of quality improvement techniques and disease management tools can be used to improve the quality of care of patients with atherothrombosis. A key component of this strategy is pharmacologic therapy. The appropriate use of prescription drugs involves several key factors, including the proper selection of the agent based on available clinical evidence, choosing regimens that enhance patient compliance, and sound methodologies to evaluate outcomes. Improvements in the quality of care for patients with atherothrombosis can have a significant impact on the overall quality of health care as well as total costs.