Author(s): Sidorov J, Shull R, Tomcavage J, Girolami S, Lawton N, Harris R
OBJECTIVE: Little is known about the impact of disease management programs on medical costs for patients with diabetes. This study compared health care costs for patients who fulfilled health employer data and information set (HEDIS) criteria for diabetes and were in a health maintenance organization (HMO)-sponsored disease management program with costs for those not in disease management. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: We retrospectively examined paid health care claims and other measures of health care use over 2 years among 6,799 continuously enrolled Geisinger Health Plan patients who fulfilled HEDIS criteria for diabetes. Two groups were compared: those who were enrolled in an opt-in disease management program and those who were not enrolled. We also compared HEDIS data on HbA(1c) testing, percent not in control, lipid testing, diabetic eye screening, and kidney disease screening. All HEDIS measures were based on a hybrid method of claims and chart audits, except for percent not in control, which was based on chart audits only. RESULTS: Of 6,799 patients fulfilling HEDIS criteria for the diagnosis of diabetes, 3,118 (45.9%) patients were enrolled in a disease management program (program), and 3,681 (54.1%) were not enrolled (nonprogram). Both groups had similar male-to-female ratios, and the program patients were 1.4 years younger than the nonprogram patients. Per member per month paid claims averaged 394.62 dollars for program patients compared with 502.48 dollars for nonprogram patients (P < 0.05). This difference was accompanied by lower inpatient health care use in program patients (mean of 0.12 admissions per patient per year and 0.56 inpatient days per patient per year) than in nonprogram patients (0.16 and 0.98, P < 0.05 for both measures). Program patients experienced fewer emergency room visits (0.49 per member per year) than nonprogram patients (0.56) but had a higher number of primary care visits (8.36 vs. 7.78, P < 0.05 for both measures). Except for emergency room visits, these differences remained statistically significant after controlling for age, sex, HMO enrollment duration, presence of a pharmacy benefit, and insurance type. Program patients also achieved higher HEDIS scores for HbA(1c) testing as well as for lipid, eye, and kidney screenings (96.6, 91.1, 79.1, and 68.5% among program patients versus 83.8, 77.6, 64.9, and 39.3% among nonprogram patients, P < 0.05 for all measures). Among 1,074 patients with HbA(1c) levels measured in a HEDIS chart audit, 35 of 526 (6.7%) program patients had a level >9.5%, as compared with 79 of 548 (14.4%) nonprogram patients. CONCLUSIONS: In this HMO, an opt-in disease management program appeared to be associated with a significant reduction in health care costs and other measures of health care use. There was also a simultaneous improvement in HEDIS measures of quality care. These data suggest that disease management may result in savings for sponsored managed care organizations and that improvements in HEDIS measures are not necessarily associated with increased medical costs.