Objectives: Falls and fall injuries are common-potentially preventable-causes of morbidity, functional decline, and increased health-care use among elderly persons. The current analyses, performed on data obtained as part of a randomized controlled trial conducted within a health maintenance organization, describe the costs of a multifactorial, targeted prevention program for falls, present total net health-care costs, estimate the cost per fall prevented, and describe acute fall-related health-care costs.
Methods: The 301 participants were at least 70 years of age and possessed at least one of eight targeted risk factors for falling. The 153 participants randomized to the targeted intervention (TI) group received a combination of medication adjustment, behavioral recommendations, and exercises as determined by their baseline assessment. The 148 participants randomized to the usual care (UC) group received a series of home visits by a social work student.
Results: The mean intervention cost per TI participant was $925 (range $588 to $1,346). Total mean health-care costs were approximately $2,000 less in the TI than UC group, whereas median costs were approximately $1,100 higher in the TI than UC group. The TI strategy was unequivocally cost effective when mean costs were used because the intervention was associated with both lowered total health-care costs and fewer total and medical care falls. In sensitivity analyses, the cost-effectiveness of the TI strategy appeared robust to widely differing assumptions about total health-care costs (25th to 75th percentile of the actual distribution) and intervention costs (minimum to maximum costs). In subgroup analyses, the TI strategy showed its strongest effect among individuals at high risk of falling, defined as possession of at least four of the eight targeted risk factors.
Conclusions: Consideration should be given toward incorporating and reimbursing the cost of fall-prevention programs within the usual health care of community-living elderly persons, particularly for those persons at high risk for falling.