MONDAY, March 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors with chronic diseases often see multiple doctors in separate locations, and poor patient-physician communication is common. Now, a new study finds coordinated care reduces the risk of complications and hospital costs.
Researchers looked at data from nearly 300,000 Medicare patients with type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure or emphysema. Their analysis revealed that even slight improvements in the coordination of care for these patients led to significant reductions in hospital admissions and the use of emergency departments, fewer complications and lower health care costs.
The findings, published online March 17 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that better coordination of care for patients with these diseases could save Medicare up to $1.5 billion a year, said the researchers at RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.
"Improving the coordination of care for patients with chronic illnesses can be difficult to achieve, but our findings suggest that it can have benefits for both patients and the health care system," said study lead author Peter Hussey, a senior policy researcher at RAND.
Care was considered better coordinated if patients saw fewer health providers or if medical visits were concentrated among fewer providers.
"Our results suggest the potential importance of care continuity and underscore the potential benefits that can be achieved through programs that improve coordination," Hussey added in a RAND news release. "As health care delivery and payment programs evolve," he said, it's important to "measure whether these reforms improve continuity and reduce health care costs."
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging offers advice for seniors with multiple health problems.