Background: Outreach facilitation has been proven successful in improving the adoption of clinical preventive care guidelines in primary care practice. The net costs and savings of delivering such an intensive intervention need to be understood. We wanted to estimate the proportion of a facilitation intervention cost that is offset and the potential for savings by reducing inappropriate screening tests and increasing appropriate screening tests in 22 intervention primary care practices affecting a population of 90,283 patients.
Methods: A cost-consequences analysis of one successful outreach facilitation intervention was done, taking into account the estimated cost savings to the health system of reducing five inappropriate tests and increasing seven appropriate tests. Multiple data sources were used to calculate costs and cost savings to the government. The cost of the intervention and costs of performing appropriate testing were calculated. Costs averted were calculated by multiplying the number of tests not performed as a result of the intervention. Further downstream cost savings were determined by calculating the direct costs associated with the number of false positive test follow-ups avoided. Treatment costs averted as a result of increasing appropriate testing were similarly calculated.
Results: The total cost of the intervention over 12 months was $238,388 and the cost of increasing the delivery of appropriate care was $192,912 for a total cost of $431,300. The savings from reduction in inappropriate testing were $148,568 and from avoiding treatment costs as a result of appropriate testing were $455,464 for a total savings of $604,032. On a yearly basis the net cost saving to the government is $191,733 per year (2003 Can dollars) equating to $3,687 per physician or $63,911 per facilitator, an estimated return on intervention investment and delivery of appropriate preventive care of 40%.
Conclusion: Outreach facilitation is more expensive but more effective than other attempts to modify primary care practice and all of its costs can be offset through the reduction of inappropriate testing and increasing appropriate testing. Our calculations are based on conservative assumptions. The potential for savings is likely considerably higher.