Study: Prostheses save Medicare money

A retrospective study by the Amputee Coalition found Medicare recipients who receive orthoses and prostheses are less likely to require further facility-based care, MedPage Today reports.

The study concluded patients who received lower extremity orthoses "had better outcomes over 18 months, defined as fewer acute care hospitalizations and emergency room admissions and reduced costs to Medicare" and "were able to sustain significantly more  rehabilitation, and were able to remain in their homes as opposed to needing placement in facility-based settings."

Patients who were given spinal orthoses did not have any significant difference in Medicare payments, but were more likely to make use of ambulatory/home-based care rather than facility-based care. Although patients with spinal orthoses experienced a greater amount of fractures and falls, which researchers thought might be due to their "increased ambulation and independence," they noted these accidents "did not result in a higher number of emergency room admissions compared to comparison group patients."

Patients who received lower extremity prostheses also had similar Medicare payments, but were more likely to be the recipients of outpatient therapy. This therapy correlated with fewer emergency room admissions and acute care hospitalizations, as well as a lower amount of facility-based care; any extra costs associated with the prosthetics were made up for by this reduced need for care. "This reduction in healthcare utilization ultimately makes O&P [orthotics and prosthetics] services cost-effective for the Medicare program and increases the quality of life and independence of the patient," the study says.

The Amputee Coalition hopes the results of the study will ease Medicare recipients' path to prostheses that meet their needs; according to MedPage Today, the requirement to prove that a device is necessary can be a major hurdle for patients.

"For the first time, we can actually use the data ... that clearly demonstrates the efficiency and the efficacy of the services that we provide," American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association President Thomas Kirk said.

To learn more:
- here's the study (.pdf)
- read the MedPage article
- listen to the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association's audio conference on the study