The Well-Being Journal

New Study Shows Positive Impact of Australia’s Largest Health Management Program

Sophie Leveque

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.
Topics: Chronic Disease Science and Research Cardiac Disease International Diabetes

Dr. Dean Ornish on Sustaining Lifestyle Changes

Sandy Cummings

Dr. Dean Ornish has been a part of the Healthways family for not quite a year now. As he travels the world, discussing both the impact of positive lifestyle changes and the best ways to go about about making sure those changes can be sustained, I'm often struck by how consistent and powerful his messages are.

For example, in this HuffPost video, where he says, "Fear, shame and guilt are not sustainable."

Or in this Parade article, which leads off with his reassuring, "Your genes are not your fate."

And then, when comparing lifestyle change to traditional medical approaches: "These simple lifestyle changes work even better at a fraction of the cost, and the only side effects are good ones," which he shared recently in Everyday Health.

Dr. Ornish is at the forefront of a movement to change our nation's emphasis on "sick care" -- work so powerful, it's becoming the cornerstone of healthcare reform initiatives, as this article in USA Today describes.

Whether you're grappling with chronic disease or simply living a life that somehow feels like it's missing the mark, having a clear path to well-being improvement makes a big difference. I hope you'll spend a few minutes with Dr. Ornish via this coverage and start walking down that path.

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being In the News Healthcare Health Community Prevention Wellness Healthways Chronic Disease Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

Preventing Heart Disease and Stroke Deaths: Sizing Up the Opportunity

Sandy Cummings

Howard Lewine, M.D., wrote a compelling post yesterday on the Harvard Health Blog describing the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report entitled, "Vital Signs: Avoidable Deaths from Heart Disease, Stroke, and Hypertensive Disease -- United States, 2001-2010."

He writes:

During a press conference to present the study results, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said, “As a doctor, I find it heartbreaking to know that the vast majority of people who are having a heart attack or stroke, under the age of 65 in particular, and dying from it didn’t have to have that happen.”

So, what does it take to change this story? Dr. Lewine cites research from the Harvard School of Public Health that points to the power of lifestyle changes (e.g., involving diet, exercise, and abstinence from smoking), following it up with tips to lower your own risk. It's a quick read, and a helpful one.

If you think this information isn't really relevant to you, consider this from Dr. Lewine:

No matter what your age and how good things look today, your future risk of heart disease, stroke and other related diseases is high. It’s true for all of us.



Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being Links of the Week In the News Healthcare Health Prevention Wellness Chronic Disease

Meet MIT Age Lab's Sweetheart, AGNES

Jennifer Rudloff

As we age, the way we experience the world around us changes. Getting out of cars, grocery shopping and all of the big and little things that are a part of every day life can be come more difficult.

Enter AGNES: MIT Age Lab's Age Gain Now Empathy System. AGNES allows us to better undersand how these customers are experiencing life and how we can alter the design of their physical environment, and improve our solutions to better fit their needs.

So how does it work? Watch the video to find out!

Topics: Healthy Living In the News Aging Chronic Disease Joseph Coughlin MIT Age Lab Age Gain Now Empathy System AGNES