Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
MedGenMed. 2004 Apr 1;6(2):56.

Evidence-based medicine in managed care: a survey of current and emerging strategies.

Author information

Vanderbilt Center for Evidence-Based Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.



Evidence-based medicine is the "conscientious application of scientific best practice by clinicians in concert with patient understanding and values." Recent studies by the Institute of Medicine, RAND, and others have called attention to the gap between scientifically supported approaches to care and day-to-day practice by clinicians. Compounding the problem of non-adherence by providers, researchers have observed that patient compliance also falls short. As a result, avoidable costs from inappropriate variability in practice patterns coupled with patient noncompliance are a significant focus of managed care. Managed care plans play a key role in the selection of providers by consumers and in the design of benefits programs by employers. Avoidable costs from misuse, overuse, and under-use of care from clinicians is a strategic focus for health plans. The evidence upon which a plan makes coverage decisions and the incorporation of evidence in programs targeting providers, employers, and consumers was a focus of this study.


A Delphi survey and 2-day interactive sessions with 128 clinical program directors and medical officers from 89 health plans were the primary methods used in this descriptive analysis. To test participant applications of evidence-based medicine in health plan medical management strategy, 3 conditions were used for illustrative purpose: managing rheumatoid arthritis, increasing remission in depression, and reducing heart disease among diabetics. Each provided a unique challenge to plans in terms of condition prevalence, strength of evidence, and cost.


Health plans incorporate evidence-based medicine in 5 areas overseen by medical management: (1) coverage decisions wherein improvements in pharmaceutical and therapeutic review processes are sought, (2) disease management efforts wherein increased attention to secondary prevention is desirable, (3) provider profiling wherein increased use of adherence measures comparing practices is a focus, (4) pay-for-performance programs linking physician adherence to financial incentives, and (5) consumer-directed care programs wherein patient compliance to evidence-based treatment directives is the focus. Factors that influence a plan's approach to a patient population include prevalence of the condition, the strength of evidence about a particular diagnostic or prognostic strategy, costs associated with the condition, and the influence of employers in coverage decisions.


Evidence-based medicine is the foundation for significant activity among plans to increase physician and patient adherence. There remain significant challenges in the implementation of evidence-based care management by plans, including the willingness of plans to agree on evidence-based guidelines, the willingness of employers to pay for evidence-based interventions, the balance of short- and long-term benefits for evidence-based interventions where secondary prevention is a consideration, and substantial distrust among providers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Medscape, Inc. Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center