The impact of chronic disease on the U.S. healthcare system is staggering – 86 percent of all healthcare spending is for individuals with a least one chronic condition. But unfortunately chronic disease is not an issue unique to the United States. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are also highly prevalent in other parts of the world.
In Australia, approximately one million people are living with diabetes. What’s more, 100,000 new cases are diagnosed annually – making it the fastest growing chronic illness in the country. Cardiovascular disease is also a serious health issue in Australia, as it’s the leading cause of death, accounting for 30 percent of all deaths. In terms of financial impact, diabetes and cardiovascular disease combined are expected to cost Australians $31.2 billion in annual healthcare expenditures by 2033 – representing nearly 12.7 percent of all healthcare spending.
In 2009, Australia’s largest not-for-profit private health insurer, The Hospitals Contributions Fund of Australia (HCF), decided to meet this critical issue of chronic disease head-on by partnering with Healthways to provide comprehensive well-being improvement solutions through a program called My Health Guardian (MHG). The largest program of its kind in Australia, MHG works to actively manage and improve the health and well-being of HCF members by offering them an extensive suite of resources. Members with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are eligible for telephonic support from registered nurses, helping to drive adherence to proven standards of care, medications and physician care plans.
A four-year study of the MHG program was recently published in BMC Health Services Research. “Long-term Impact of a Chronic Disease Management Program on Hospital Utilization and Cost in an Australian Population with Heart Disease or Diabetes” definitively illustrates the positive impact MHG has had on reducing costs and hospital utilization for insured HCF members with heart disease or diabetes. Overall, participants were 27 percent and 45 percent less likely to have any admission or readmission, respectively, over the four year study period than matched non-participants. The study also found that average per-member savings across the four-year period totaled $3,549.
These results build on earlier published research that looked at the outcomes from the first 18 months following the implementation of the MHG program. This 2012 peer-reviewed study showed that MHG significantly reduced the rate of hospital admissions for participants with heart disease and diabetes. Both the 2012 and 2015 studies found the magnitude of program effect increased over time, demonstrating the importance of sustained participation in the program.Managing chronic conditions is a global issue and the MHG study demonstrates that there are viable solutions to help address it that can be successful in countries outside the United States. You can read the complete study here.