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Automated Telephone Self-Management Support for Diabetes in a Low-Income Health Plan: A Health Care Utilization and Cost Analysis.

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The objective was to determine whether automated telephone self-management support (ATSM) for low-income, linguistically diverse health plan members with diabetes affects health care utilization or cost. A government-sponsored managed care plan for low-income patients implemented a demonstration project between 2009 and 2011 that involved a 6-month ATSM intervention for 362 English-, Spanish-, or Cantonese-speaking members with diabetes from 4 publicly funded clinics. Participants were randomized to immediate intervention or a wait-list. Medical and pharmacy claims used in this analysis were obtained from the managed care plan. Medical claims included hospitalizations, ambulance use, emergency department visits, and outpatient visits. In the 6-month period following enrollment, intervention participants generated half as many emergency department visits and hospitalizations (rate ratio 0.52, 95% CI 0.26, 1.04) compared to wait-listed participants, but these differences did not reach statistical significance (P=0.06). With adjustment for prior year cost, intervention participants also had a nonsignificant reduction of $26.78 in total health care costs compared to wait-listed individuals (P=0.93). The observed trends suggest that ATSM could yield potential health service benefits for health plans that provide coverage for chronic disease patients in safety net settings. ATSM should be further scaled up to determine whether it is associated with a greater reduction in health care utilization and costs.

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