Objective To evaluate the cost effectiveness, cost utility, and cost-benefit of an integrated care programme compared with usual care for sick listed patients with chronic low back pain.
Design Economic evaluation alongside a randomised controlled trial with 12 months’ follow-up.
Setting Primary care (10 physiotherapy practices, one occupational health service, one occupational therapy practice) and secondary care (five hospitals) in the Netherlands, 2005-9.
Participants 134 adults aged 18-65 sick listed because of chronic low back pain: 66 were randomised to integrated care and 68 to usual care.
Interventions Integrated care consisted of a workplace intervention based on participatory ergonomics, with involvement of a supervisor, and a graded activity programme based on cognitive behavioural principles. Usual care was provided by general practitioners and occupational physicians according to Dutch guidelines.
Main outcome measures The primary outcome was duration until sustainable return to work. The secondary outcome was quality adjusted life years (QALYs), measured using EuroQol.
Results Total costs in the integrated care group (£13165, SD £13600) were significantly lower than in the usual care group (£18475, SD £13616). Cost effectiveness planes and acceptability curves showed that integrated care was cost effective compared with usual care for return to work and QALYs gained. The cost-benefit analyses showed that every £1 invested in integrated care would return an estimated £26. The net societal benefit of integrated care compared with usual care was £5744.
Conclusions Implementation of an integrated care programme for patients sick listed with chronic low back pain has a large potential to significantly reduce societal costs, increase effectiveness of care, improve quality of life, and improve function on a broad scale. Integrated care therefore has large gains for patients and society as well as for employers.