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Solving chronic disease burden will help lower healthcare costs
05.01.2012Healthcare and wellness programs that pay extra attention to the medical needs of high-cost patients with chronic diseases could play a major role in helping to lower healthcare costs, according to one expert.
Dr. David Blumenthal is a professor of healthcare policy at Partners Healthcare System and Harvard Medical School and is the former national coordinator for health IT. He said at a recent conference hosted by the New England Healthcare Institute that solving high medical costs will take a renewed focus on chronically ill patients, according to Healthcare Finance News.
It will be impossible to make a meaningful dent in healthcare costs without addressing the small group of patients whose expenses are the highest, Blumenthal said. He estimated that reducing the cost of treating 60 percent of people with chronic diseases could help the nation save $300 billion over the next 10 years.
This may sound like a large sum of money, but Blumenthal admitted it may not be sufficient for curing the problems of the healthcare system on its own. More coordinated treatment strategies will be needed to make care truly affordable. However, targeting the costs associated with chronic disease patients makes sense because these individuals have the highest costs and their conditions are often preventable or reversible.
Blumenthal said he was doubtful that any meaningful change would come from the federal government. Instead, he recommended that communities work together to find solutions that address their unique needs.
Medicare spends about 76 percent of its funding treating patients with five or more chronic diseases, according to the Healthcare Cost Monitor. This is a major reason why some experts have called into question the future viability of the public health insurance program.
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