Objective: The dramatic rise in healthcare expenditures calls for innovative and scalable strategies to achieve measurable, near-term improvements in health. Our objective was to determine whether a remotely delivered behavioral health intervention could improve medical health, reduce hospital admissions, and lower cost of care for individuals with a recent cardiovascular event.
Study design: This retrospective observational cohort study included members of a commercial health plan referred to participate in AbilTo’s Cardiac Health Program. AbilTo is a national provider of telehealth, behavioral change programs for high risk medical populations.
Methods: The program is an 8-week behavioral health intervention delivered by a licensed clinical social worker and a behavioral coach via phone or secure video.
Results: Among the 201 intervention and 180 comparison subjects, the study found that program participants had significantly fewer all-cause hospital admissions in 6 months (293 per 1000 persons/year vs 493 per 1000 persons/year in the comparison group) resulting in an adjusted percent reduction of 31% (P = .03), and significantly fewer total hospital days (1455 days per 1000 persons/year vs 3933 per 1000 persons/year) with an adjusted percent decline of 48% (P = .01). This resulted in an overall savings in the cost of care even after accounting for total program costs.
Conclusions: Successful patient engagement in a national, remotely delivered behavioral health intervention can reduce medical utilization in a targeted cardiac population. A restored focus on tackling barriers to behavior change in order to improve medical health is an effective, achievable population health strategy for reducing health costs in the United States.