Reductions in costly healthcare service utilization: findings from the Care Advocate Program

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006 Jul;54(7):1102-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2006.00799.x.


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.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • California
  • Community Health Services / economics
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration
  • Community Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cost Savings
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / organization & administration*
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Home Care Services / economics
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration
  • Home Care Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Medicare / organization & administration
  • Needs Assessment
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Referral and Consultation / organization & administration
  • Telephone