Six Features of Medicare Coordinated Care Demonstration Programs That Cut Hospital Admissions of High-Risk Patients

Health Affairs
Vol. 31 No. 6
June 2012
Brown R.S. et al.
pp. 1156-1166

As policy makers seek to slow the growth in Medicare spending, they have appropriately focused attention on beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions. Many care coordination and disease management programs designed to improve beneficiaries’ care and reduce their need for hospitalizations have been tested, but few have been successful. This study, however, found that four of eleven programs that were part of the Medicare Coordinated Care Demonstration reduced hospitalizations by 8–33 percent among enrollees who had a high risk of near-term hospitalization. The six approaches practiced by care coordinators in at least three of the four programs were as follows: supplementing telephone calls to patients with frequent in-person meetings; occasionally meeting in person with providers; acting as a communications hub for providers; delivering evidence-based education to patients; providing strong medication management; and providing timely and comprehensive transitional care after hospitalizations. When care management fees were included, the programs were essentially cost-neutral, but none of these programs generated net savings to Medicare. Our results suggest that incorporating these approaches into medical homes, accountable care organizations, and other policy initiatives could reduce hospitalizations and improve patients’ lives. However, the approaches would save money only if care coordination fees were modest and organizations found cost-effective ways to deliver the interventions.

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