Health coaches, call centers don't save costs or improve outcomes

Despite the buzz around health coaches and remote call centers, a New England Journal of Medicine study indicates that these commercial approaches--as opposed to traditional clinical approaches--do not save costs or cut down on admissions or emergency room visits, according to researchers at RTI International for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). RTI researchers looked at nearly 250,000 patients and found that the commercial programs did not reduce admissions or emergency room visits and noted only limited success in improving the processes of care, according to a RTI press release last week.

Commercially based disease-management models may not work for older, chronically ill Medicare patients, in part, because they are difficult to manage, researchers said. They also noted that health coaches are not often integrated with the patient's primary care team, which may contribute to the lack of improved outcomes and savings. News release