Economic evaluations of community-based care: lessons from twelve studies in Ontario
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A series of 12 studies (five historic cohort and seven randomized trials) examined clients in community settings in Southern Ontario suffering from a variety of chronic physical and mental health conditions. These studies are appraised using a framework for evaluating possible outcomes of economic evaluation. In the 12 studies, sample composition and size varied. Each study was designed to quantify the well-being outcomes and expenditures associated with different community-based approaches to care provided in the context of a system of national health insurance. As a collective, these studies represent increasing methodological rigour. Multiple-perspective client well-being outcome measures were used. In two studies, caregiver burden also was analysed. A common approach to quantification and evaluation of expenditures for service consumption was used in all 12 studies. The nature of community-based health services (health vs. disease care orientation) was found to have direct and measurable impact on total expenditures for health service utilization and client well-being outcomes. In most cases, a recurring pattern of equal or better client outcomes, yet lower expenditures for use of community based health services, was associated with well-integrated health oriented services. Integrated services aimed at factors which determine health are superior when compared to individual, fragmented, disease oriented, and focused approaches to care. The main lessons from the 12 studies are that it is as or more effective and as or less expensive to offer complete, proactive, community health services to persons living with chronic circumstance than to provide focused, on-demand, piecemeal services. Complete services would have a psychosocial and mental health focus included with the physical care approach. Furthermore, people with coexisting risk factors (age, living arrangements, mental distress and problem-solving ability) are the ones who most benefit at lower expense from health oriented, proactive interventions.
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