More effective and less expensive: lessons from five studies examining community approaches to care
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Does the nature of community health services used by chronically ill clients and their caregivers have an impact on utilization of services, expenditure and well-being outcomes? A series of five studies, (four historic cohort and one randomized trial) examined clients suffering from a variety of chronic conditions in a number of community settings in different regions of Southern Ontario. Study sample composition and size varied. Each study was designed to quantify the well-being outcomes, and expenditure associated with different community approaches is covered under a nation-wide system of health insurance plans. As a collective, these studies represent increasing methodological rigor. Multiple-perspective client well-being outcome measures were used. Caregiver burden was also analyzed. A common approach to quantification and evaluation of expenditure for service consumption was applied across all five studies. The nature of community health services (proactive versus reactive approaches to care) was found to have direct and measurable impact on total expenditure for health service utilization and client well-being outcomes. A recurring pattern of lower expenditure for community health service utilization and equal or better client outcomes was associated with well-integrated proactive services when compared with individual fragmented, reactive approaches to care. The main lesson emerging from examining the five studies on approaches to community care is that it is as, or more, effective and less expensive to offer complete proactive health care services to chronically ill people in the early stages of their illness than to provide services on demand in a piecemeal manner.
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