Costly patients with unexplained medical symptoms: a high-risk population.

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Costly patients with unexplained medical symptoms: a high-risk population.

Patient Educ Couns. 2008 Feb;70(2):173-8

Authors: Margalit AP, El-Ad A

OBJECTIVES: To identify a group of costly patients with unexplained medical symptoms (UMS), and address their needs. METHODS: Prospective controlled trial; 42 patients with annual costs of care of $6500 or more were randomized into an intervention and a usual care group. A primary care team with expertise in the biopsychosocial (BPS) approach implemented the intervention. RESULTS: In the intervention group, the annual number of visits to consultants declined from 31.8 to 12.6 (p<.0001) and 14.6 (p=.72) after 1 and 2 years, respectively; visits to hospital emergency wards declined from 33.5 to 4.1 (p<.0001) and 3.5 (p=.18); and in-hospital days declined from 112.7 to 19 (p<.0001) and 6.5 (p=.25). Those parameters remained unchanged in the control group. Five years follow-up demonstrated a reduction in mortality rates between the two groups: 6/21 versus 17/21 (p<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: When compared to usual care, a BPS intervention was followed by a decline in patients' visits to medical settings and health-care expenditures, along with significant decline in mortality rate. PRACTICE IMPLICATION: Costly UMS patients should be identified every year and treated using a BPS approach.

PMID: 17983723 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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