Telephone care management programs can help reduce medical costs and lead to improved patient care, medication adherence and patient satisfaction, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As part of a year-long study in Indiana, conducted by the Regenstrief Institute, 16 rural and urban oncology practices provided telephone-based care management and automated symptom monitoring to cancer patients suffering from pain, depression or both.
A nurse manager regularly called patients over a three-month period to assess symptom response and medication adherence, and provide pain- and depression-specific education. Patients also responded to interactive voice-recorded telephone calls or Web surveys designed to gauge ongoing symptoms.
The nurse care manager, with support from a physician specialist, monitored the results and called patients as needed, and also spoke to the patient’s oncologist about treatment recommendations.
When compared with patients in a randomized control group, patients in the program experienced significantly reduced severity of both pain and depression, leading to improved quality of life in specific areas and high levels of patient satisfaction.
“During the initial study, one full-time care manager handled approximately 60 patients at a time,” according to the researchers. “However, in a real-world practice setting, a full-time care manager could likely handle more patients, with the difference being attributed to research-related work that would not be necessary in everyday practice and the potential to terminate symptom monitoring once the patient has improved.
“A registered nurse or nurse practitioner, ideally with experience in oncology and/or palliative care, can serve as a care manager. The program also requires a physician specialist for no more than one half-day per week.”
To read about other studies pertaining to telephone care for patients, visit http://www.innovations.ahrq.gov/issue.aspx?id=94. The Regenstrief Institute is a private, nonprofit research institute affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Ind.