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J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Dec;22 Suppl 3:396-402.

What is the business case for improving care for patients with complex conditions?

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VA HSR&D Center for the Study of Healthcare Provider Behavior, Sepulveda, CA, USA.



Patients with complex conditions account for a disproportionate share of health care spending. Although evidence indicates that care for these patients could be provided more efficiently, the financial impact of mechanisms to improve the care they receive is unclear.


Numerous mechanisms-emphasizing patient self-management, care coordination, and evidence-based guidelines-aim to improve the quality of care and outcomes for patients with complex conditions. Assessing the overall "business case" for these mechanisms requires carefully estimating all relevant costs and financial benefits, then comparing them in present value terms. Mechanisms that are not cost-saving may still be implemented if they are cost-effective. We reviewed articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as reports available on publicly accessible websites, which contained data about the business case for mechanisms to improve care for patients with complex conditions.


Published studies do not provide clear evidence that current mechanisms are cost saving. This literature also has several major methodological shortcomings with respect to providing an understanding of the business case for these mechanisms.


Further research using standardized methodologies is needed to understand the business case for mechanisms to improve care for patients with complex conditions. Implications for VA business case analyses include the necessity of establishing appropriate time horizons, scope of services, and target populations, as well as considering the impact of existing VA systems.

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