Objective: To determine whether experimentally developed social support and education about appropriate use of the health care system decrease health care costs without negatively affecting health status.
Method: Three hundred sixty-three health maintenance organization members with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 intervention groups or to a control group. Health status and health care use were assessed upon entering the study, and after 1 year and 2 years.
Results: A savings of $1,156/participant/year was obtained when health care costs of the experimental groups were compared with those of the control group. Production or implementation costs were least for the social support intervention. The nearly equal effects of the 3 interventions on health care costs make implementation costs the primary focus when deciding which intervention to use.
Conclusion: We believe that the social support treatment is the most cost-effective intervention.