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1.  Can Broader Diffusion of Value-Based Insurance Design Increase Benefits from US Health Care without Increasing Costs? Evidence from a Computer Simulation Model 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000234.
Using a computer simulation based on US data, R. Scott Braithwaite and colleagues calculate the benefits of value-based insurance design, in which patients pay less for highly cost-effective services.
Evidence suggests that cost sharing (i.e.,copayments and deductibles) decreases health expenditures but also reduces essential care. Value-based insurance design (VBID) has been proposed to encourage essential care while controlling health expenditures. Our objective was to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID on US health care benefits and costs.
Methods and Findings
We used a published computer simulation of costs and life expectancy gains from US health care to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID. Two scenarios were analyzed: (1) applying VBID solely to pharmacy benefits and (2) applying VBID to both pharmacy benefits and other health care services (e.g., devices). We assumed that cost sharing would be eliminated for high-value services (<$100,000 per life-year), would remain unchanged for intermediate- or unknown-value services ($100,000–$300,000 per life-year or unknown), and would be increased for low-value services (>$300,000 per life-year). All costs are provided in 2003 US dollars. Our simulation estimated that approximately 60% of health expenditures in the US are spent on low-value services, 20% are spent on intermediate-value services, and 20% are spent on high-value services. Correspondingly, the vast majority (80%) of health expenditures would have cost sharing that is impacted by VBID. With prevailing patterns of cost sharing, health care conferred 4.70 life-years at a per-capita annual expenditure of US$5,688. Broader diffusion of VBID to pharmaceuticals increased the benefit conferred by health care by 0.03 to 0.05 additional life-years, without increasing costs and without increasing out-of-pocket payments. Broader diffusion of VBID to other health care services could increase the benefit conferred by health care by 0.24 to 0.44 additional life-years, also without increasing costs and without increasing overall out-of-pocket payments. Among those without health insurance, using cost saving from VBID to subsidize insurance coverage would increase the benefit conferred by health care by 1.21 life-years, a 31% increase.
Broader diffusion of VBID may amplify benefits from US health care without increasing health expenditures.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
More money is spent per person on health care in the US than in any other country. US health care expenditure accounts for 16.2% of the gross domestic product and this figure is rising. Indeed, the increase in health care costs is outstripping the economy's growth rate. Consequently, US policy makers and providers of health insurance—health care in the US is largely provided by the private sector and is paid for through private health insurance or through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid—are looking for better ways to control health expenditures. Although some health care cost reductions can be achieved by increasing efficiency, controlling the quantity of health care consumed is an essential component of strategies designed to reduce health expenditures. These strategies can target health care providers (for example, by requiring primary care physicians to provide referrals before their patients' insurance provides cover for specialist care) or can target consumers, often through cost sharing. Nowadays, most insurance plans include several tiers of cost sharing in which patients pay a larger proportion of the costs of expensive interventions than of cheap interventions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Cost sharing decreases health expenditure but it can also reduce demand for essential care and thus reduce the quality of care. Consequently, some experts have proposed value-based insurance design (VBID), an approach in which the amount of cost sharing is set according to the “value” of an intervention rather than its cost. The value of an intervention is defined as the ratio of the additional benefits to the additional costs of the intervention when compared to the next best alternative intervention. Under VBID, cost sharing could be waived for office visits necessary to control blood pressure in people with diabetes, which deliver high-value care, but could be increased for high-tech scans for dementia, which deliver low-value care. VBID has been adopted by several private health insurance schemes and its core principal is endorsed by US policy makers. However, it is unclear whether wider use of VBID is warranted. In this study, the researchers use a computer simulation of the US health care system to estimate the impact of broader diffusion of VBID on US health care benefits and costs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used their computer simulation to estimate the impact of applying VBID to cost sharing for drugs alone and to cost sharing for drugs, procedures, and other health care services for one million hypothetical US patients. In their simulation, the researchers eliminated cost sharing for services that cost less than US$100,000 per life-year gained (high-value services) and increased cost-sharing for services that cost more than US$300,000 per life-year gained (low-value services); cost-sharing remained unchanged for intermediate- or unknown-value services. With the current pattern of cost sharing, 60% of health expenditure is spent on low-value services and health care increases life expectancy by 4.70 years for an annual per person expenditure of US$5,688, the researchers report. With widespread application of VBID to cost sharing for drugs alone, health care increased life expectancy by an additional 0.03 to 0.05 years without increasing costs. With widespread application of VBID to cost sharing for other health care services, health care increased life expectancy by a further 0.24 to 0.44 years without additional costs. Finally, if the costs saved by applying VBID were used to subsidize insurance for the 15% of the US population currently without health insurance, the benefit conferred by health care among these people would increase by 1.21 life-years.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this study depend on the many assumptions included in the computer simulation, which, although complex, is a greatly simplified representation of the US health care system. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that if VBID were used more widely within the US health care system to encourage the use of high-value services, it might be possible to amplify the benefits from US health care without increasing health expenditures. Importantly, the money saved by VBID could be used to help fund universal insurance, a central aim of US health care reform. More research is needed, however, to determine the value of various health care interventions and to investigate whether other ways of linking value to cost sharing might yield even better gains in life expectancy at little or no additional cost.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has a page on health care in the United States (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
Families USA works to promote high-quality affordable health care for all Americans and provides information about all aspects of US health care and about US health care reforms
The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid provides information on the major government health insurance programs and on US national health expenditure statistics
PMCID: PMC2821897  PMID: 20169114
2.  “Working the System”—British American Tobacco's Influence on the European Union Treaty and Its Implications for Policy: An Analysis of Internal Tobacco Industry Documents 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(1):e1000202.
Katherine Smith and colleagues investigate the ways in which British American Tobacco influenced the European Union Treaty so that new EU policies advance the interests of major corporations, including those that produce products damaging to health.
Impact assessment (IA) of all major European Union (EU) policies is now mandatory. The form of IA used has been criticised for favouring corporate interests by overemphasising economic impacts and failing to adequately assess health impacts. Our study sought to assess how, why, and in what ways corporations, and particularly the tobacco industry, influenced the EU's approach to IA.
Methods and Findings
In order to identify whether industry played a role in promoting this system of IA within the EU, we analysed internal documents from British American Tobacco (BAT) that were disclosed following a series of litigation cases in the United States. We combined this analysis with one of related literature and interviews with key informants. Our analysis demonstrates that from 1995 onwards BAT actively worked with other corporate actors to successfully promote a business-oriented form of IA that favoured large corporations. It appears that BAT favoured this form of IA because it could advance the company's European interests by establishing ground rules for policymaking that would: (i) provide an economic framework for evaluating all policy decisions, implicitly prioritising costs to businesses; (ii) secure early corporate involvement in policy discussions; (iii) bestow the corporate sector with a long-term advantage over other actors by increasing policymakers' dependence on information they supplied; and (iv) provide businesses with a persuasive means of challenging potential and existing legislation. The data reveal that an ensuing lobbying campaign, largely driven by BAT, helped secure binding changes to the EU Treaty via the Treaty of Amsterdam that required EU policymakers to minimise legislative burdens on businesses. Efforts subsequently focused on ensuring that these Treaty changes were translated into the application of a business orientated form of IA (cost–benefit analysis [CBA]) within EU policymaking procedures. Both the tobacco and chemical industries have since employed IA in apparent attempts to undermine key aspects of European policies designed to protect public health.
Our findings suggest that BAT and its corporate allies have fundamentally altered the way in which all EU policy is made by making a business-oriented form of IA mandatory. This increases the likelihood that the EU will produce policies that advance the interests of major corporations, including those that produce products damaging to health, rather than in the interests of its citizens. Given that the public health community, focusing on health IA, has largely welcomed the increasing policy interest in IA, this suggests that urgent consideration is required of the ways in which IA can be employed to undermine, as well as support, effective public health policies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The primary goal of public health, the branch of medicine concerned with the health of communities, is to improve lives by preventing disease. Public-health groups do this by assessing and monitoring the health of communities, by ensuring that populations have access to appropriate and cost-effective health care, and by helping to formulate public policies that safeguard human health. Until recently, most of the world's major public-health concerns related to infectious diseases. Nowadays, however, many major public-health concerns are linked to the goods made and marketed by large corporations such as fast food, alcohol, tobacco, and chemicals. In Europe, these corporations are regulated by policies drawn up both by member states and by the European Commission, the executive organ of the European Union (EU; an economic and political partnership among 27 democratic European countries). Thus, for example, the tobacco industry, which is widely recognized as a driver of the smoking epidemic, is regulated by Europe-wide tobacco control policies and member state level policies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Since 1997, the European Commission has been required by law to assess the economic, social (including health), and environmental consequences of new policy initiatives using a process called an “impact assessment” (IA). Because different types of IA examine the likely effects of policies on different aspects of daily life—a health impact assessment, for example, focuses on a policy's effect on health—the choice of IA can lead to different decisions being taken about new policies. Although the IA tool adopted by the European Commission aims to assess economic, environmental and social impacts, independent experts suggest this tool does not adequately assess health impacts. Instead, economic impacts receive the most attention, a situation that may favour the interests of large businesses. In this study, the researchers seek to identify how and why the EU's approach to IA developed. More specifically, the researchers analyze internal documents from British American Tobacco (BAT), which have been disclosed because of US litigation cases, to find out whether industry has played a role in promoting the EU's system of IA.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed 714 BAT internal documents (identified by searching the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, which contains more than 10 million internal tobacco company documents) that concerned attempts made by BAT to influence regulatory reforms in Europe. They also analyzed related literature from other sources (for example, academic publications) and interviewed 16 relevant people (including people who had worked at the European Commission). This analysis shows that from 1995, BAT worked with other businesses to promote European regulatory reforms (in particular, the establishment of a business-orientated form of IA) that favor large corporations. A lobbying campaign, initiated by BAT but involving a “policy network” of other companies, first helped to secure binding changes to the EU Treaty that require policymakers to minimize legislative burdens on businesses. The analysis shows that after achieving this goal, which BAT described as an “important victory,” further lobbying ensured that these treaty changes were translated into the implementation of a business-orientated form of IA within the EU. Both the tobacco industry and the chemical industry, the researchers argue, have since used the IA to delay and/or weaken EU legislation intended to protect public health.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that BAT and its corporate allies have fundamentally altered the way in which EU policy is made by ensuring that all significant EU policy decisions have to be assessed using a business-orientated IA. As the authors note, this situation increases the likelihood that the EU will produce policies that favor big business rather than the health of its citizens. Furthermore, these findings suggest that by establishing a network of other industries to help in lobbying for EU Treaty changes, BAT was able to distance itself from the push to establish a business-orientated IA to the extent that Commission officials were unaware of the involvement of the tobacco industry in campaigns for IA. Thus, in future, to safeguard public health, policymakers and public-health groups must pay more attention to corporate efforts to shape decision-making processes. In addition, public-health groups must take account of the ways in which IA can be used to undermine as well as support effective public-health policies and they must collaborate more closely in their efforts to ensure effective national and international policy.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Wikipedia has a page on public health (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
More information on the European Union (in several languages), on public health in the European Union, and on impact assessment by the European Commission is available
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a public, searchable database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages)
The Smoke Free Partnership contains more information about smoking prevalence in Europe and about European policies to tackle the public health issues associated with tobacco use
For more information about tobacco industry influence on policy see the 2009 World Health Organization report on tobacco industry interference with tobacco control
PMCID: PMC2797088  PMID: 20084098
3.  Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Expanding Harm Reduction and Antiretroviral Therapy in a Mixed HIV Epidemic: A Modeling Analysis for Ukraine 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000423.
A cost-effectiveness study by Sabina Alistar and colleagues evaluates the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different levels of investment in methadone, ART, or both, in the mixed HIV epidemic in Ukraine.
Injection drug use (IDU) and heterosexual virus transmission both contribute to the growing mixed HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In Ukraine—chosen in this study as a representative country—IDU-related risk behaviors cause half of new infections, but few injection drug users (IDUs) receive methadone substitution therapy. Only 10% of eligible individuals receive antiretroviral therapy (ART). The appropriate resource allocation between these programs has not been studied. We estimated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strategies for expanding methadone substitution therapy programs and ART in mixed HIV epidemics, using Ukraine as a case study.
Methods and Findings
We developed a dynamic compartmental model of the HIV epidemic in a population of non-IDUs, IDUs using opiates, and IDUs on methadone substitution therapy, stratified by HIV status, and populated it with data from the Ukraine. We considered interventions expanding methadone substitution therapy, increasing access to ART, or both. We measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, infections averted, and incremental cost-effectiveness. Without incremental interventions, HIV prevalence reached 67.2% (IDUs) and 0.88% (non-IDUs) after 20 years. Offering methadone substitution therapy to 25% of IDUs reduced prevalence most effectively (to 53.1% IDUs, 0.80% non-IDUs), and was most cost-effective, averting 4,700 infections and adding 76,000 QALYs compared with no intervention at US$530/QALY gained. Expanding both ART (80% coverage of those eligible for ART according to WHO criteria) and methadone substitution therapy (25% coverage) was the next most cost-effective strategy, adding 105,000 QALYs at US$1,120/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy and averting 8,300 infections versus no intervention. Expanding only ART (80% coverage) added 38,000 QALYs at US$2,240/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy, and averted 4,080 infections versus no intervention. Offering ART to 80% of non-IDUs eligible for treatment by WHO criteria, but only 10% of IDUs, averted only 1,800 infections versus no intervention and was not cost effective.
Methadone substitution therapy is a highly cost-effective option for the growing mixed HIV epidemic in Ukraine. A strategy that expands both methadone substitution therapy and ART to high levels is the most effective intervention, and is very cost effective by WHO criteria. When expanding ART, access to methadone substitution therapy provides additional benefit in infections averted. Our findings are potentially relevant to other settings with mixed HIV epidemics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are mainly driven by increasing use of injection drugs combined with heterosexual transmission. In the Ukraine, in 2007, there were 82,000 officially registered people living with HIV—three times the number registered in 1999—and an estimated 395,000 HIV infected adults. The epidemic in Ukraine, like other countries in the region, is concentrated in at-risk populations, particularly people who inject drugs: in 2007, an estimated 390,000 Ukrainians were injecting drugs, an increase in drug use over the previous decade, not only in Ukraine, but in other former USSR states, owing to the easy availability of precursors for injection drugs in a climate of economic collapse.
The common practices of people who inject drugs in Ukraine and in other countries in the region, such as social injecting, syringe sharing, and using common containers, increase the risk of transmitting HIV. Public health interventions such as needle exchange can limit these risk factors and have been gradually implemented in these countries. In 2007, Ukraine approved the use of methadone substitution therapy and the current target is for 11,000 people who inject drugs to be enrolled in substitution therapy by 2011. Furthermore, since treatment for HIV-infected individuals is also necessary, national HIV control plans included a target of 90% antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage by 2010 but in 2007 less than 10% of the 91,000 eligible people received treatment. Although the number of people who inject drugs and who receive ART is unknown, physicians are often reluctant to treat people who inject drugs using ART owing to alleged poor compliance.
Why Was This Study Done?
As resources for HIV interventions in the region are limited, it is important to investigate the appropriate balance between investments in methadone substitution therapy and ART in order to maximize benefits to public health. Several studies have analyzed the cost effectiveness of methadone substitution therapy in similar settings but have not considered tradeoffs between ART and methadone substitution therapy. Therefore, to provide insights into the appropriate public health investment in methadone substitution therapy and ART in Ukraine, the researchers evaluated the public health effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different strategies for scaling up methadone substitution therapy and/or expanding ART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a model to accommodate different population groups: people who inject drugs on substitution therapy with methadone; people who inject opiates and do not take any substitution therapy; and people who do not inject any drugs, hence do not need substitution therapy. The researchers inputted Ukraine country-level data into this model and used current HIV trends in Ukraine to make rational assumptions on possible future trends and scenarios. They considered scenarios expanding methadone substitution therapy availability, increasing acces to ART, or both. Then, the researchers measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, infections averted, and incremental cost effectiveness for the different scenarios. They found that after 20 years, HIV prevalence reached 67.2% in people who inject drugs and 0.88% in people who do not inject drugs without further interventions. Offering methadone substitution therapy to 25% of people who inject drugs was the most effective strategy in reducing prevalence of HIV and was also the most cost effective, averting 4,700 infections and adding 75,700 QALYs versus the status quo at $530/QALY gained. Expanding both methadone substitution therapy and ART was also a highly cost effective option, adding 105,000 QALYs at US$1,120/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy. Offering ART to 80% of eligible people who did not inject drugs, and 10% of people who injected drugs averted only 1,800 infections, and added 76,400 QALYs at $1,330/QALY gained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results show that methadone substitution-focused therapeutic scenarios are the most cost effective, and that benefits increase with the scale of the project, even among people who do not inject drugs. This makes a methadone substitution strategy a highly cost-effective option for addressing the growing HIV epidemic in Ukraine. Therefore, if it is not feasible to invest in large-scale methadone substitution programs for any reason, political circumstances for example, providing as much methadone substitution as is acceptable is still desirable. While substitution therapy appears to avert the most HIV infections, expanded ART provides the largest total increase in QALYs. Thus, methadone substitution therapy and ART offer complementary benefits. Because the HIV epidemic in Ukraine is representative of the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the cost-effective strategies that the researchers have identified may help inform all decision makers faced with a mixed HIV epidemic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Alliance provides information on its work supporting community action on AIDS in Ukraine
USAID provides an HIV/AIDS Health Profile for Ukraine
UNICEF provides information about its activities to help Ukraine fight rising HIV/AIDS infection rates
International Harm Reduction Association provides information about the status of harm reduction interventions such as methadone substitution therapy around the world
PMCID: PMC3046988  PMID: 21390264
4.  Biomarkers, Bundled Payments, and Colorectal Cancer Care 
Genes & Cancer  2012;3(1):16-22.
Changes in the management of cancers such as colorectal cancer (CRC) are urgently needed, as such cancers continue to be one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers; CRC accounts for 21% of all cancers and is responsible for mortalities second only to lung cancer in the United States. A comprehensive science-driven approach towards markedly improved early detection/screening to efficacious targeted therapeutics with clear diagnostic and prognostic markers is essential. In addition, further changes addressing rising costs, stemming from recent health care reform measures, will be brought about in part by changes in how care is reimbursed. For oncology, the advances in genomics and biomarkers have the potential to define subsets of patients who have a prognosis or response to a particular type of therapy that differs from the mean. Better definition of a cancer’s behavior will facilitate developing care plans tailored to the patient. One method under study is episode-based payment or bundling, where one payment is made to a provider organization to cover all expenses associated with a discrete illness episode. Payments will be based on the average cost of care, with providers taking on a risk for overutilization and outliers. For providers to thrive in this environment, they will need to know what care a patient will require and the costs of that care. A science-driven “personalized approach” to cancer care has the potential to produce better outcomes with reductions in the use of ineffectual therapies and costs. This promising scenario is still in the future, but progress is being made, and the shape of things to come for cancer care in the age of genomics is becoming clearer.
PMCID: PMC3415669  PMID: 22893787
biomarkers; bundled payments; colorectal cancer; health care reform; health policy
5.  The End of an Era: What Became of the “Managed Care Revolution” in 2001? 
Health Services Research  2003;38(1 Pt 2):337-355.
To describe how the organization and dynamics of health systems changed between 1999 and 2001, in the context of expectations from the mid-1990s when managed care was in ascendance, and assess the implications for consumers and policymakers.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Data are from the Community Tracking Study site visits to 12 communities that were randomly selected to be nationally representative of metropolitan areas with 200,000 people or more. The Community Tracking Study is an ongoing effort that began in 1996 and is fielded every two years.
Study Design
Semistructured interviews were conducted with 50–90 stakeholders and observers of the local health care market in each of the 12 communities every two years. Respondents include leaders of local hospitals, health plans, and physician organizations and representatives of major employers, state and local governments, and consumer groups. First round interviews were conducted in 1996–1997 and subsequent rounds of interviews were conducted in 1998–1999 and 2000–2001. A total of 1,690 interviews were conducted between 1996 and 2001.
Data Analysis Methods
Interview information was stored and coded in qualitative data analysis software. Data were analyzed to identify patterns and themes within and across study sites and conclusions were verified by triangulating responses from different respondent types, examining outliers, searching for disconfirming evidence, and testing rival explanations.
Principal Findings
Since the mid-1990s, managed care has developed differently than expected in local health care markets nationally. Three key developments shaped health care markets between 1999 and 2001: (1) unprecedented, sustained economic growth that resulted in extremely tight labor markets and made employers highly responsive to employee demands for even fewer restrictions on access to care; (2) health plans increasingly moved away from core strategies in the “managed care toolbox”; and (3) providers gained leverage relative to managed care plans and reverted to more traditional strategies of competing for patients based on services and amenities.
Changes in local health care markets have contributed to rising costs and created new access problems for consumers. Moreover, the trajectory of change promises to make the goals of cost-control and quality improvement more difficult to achieve in the future.
PMCID: PMC1360889  PMID: 12650370
Community health system; health plan–provider contracting; managed care; organizational change; market power
6.  Awakening Consumer Stewardship of Health Benefits: Prevalence and Differentiation of New Health Plan Models 
Health Services Research  2004;39(4 Pt 2):1055-1070.
Despite widespread publicity of consumer-directed health plans, little is known about their prevalence and the extent to which their designs adequately reflect and support consumerism.
We examined three types of consumer-directed health plans: health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), premium-tiered, and point-of-care tiered benefit plans. We sought to measure the extent to which these plans had diffused, as well as to provide a critical look at the ways in which these plans support consumerism. Consumerism in this context refers to efforts to enable informed consumer choice and consumers' involvement in managing their health. We also wished to determine whether mainstream health plans—health maintenance organization (HMO), point of service (POS), and preferred provider organization (PPO) models—were being influenced by consumerism.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Our study uses national survey data collected by Mercer Human Resource Consulting from 680 national and regional commercial health benefit plans on HMO, PPO, POS, and consumer-directed products.
Study Design
We defined consumer-directed products as health benefit plans that provided (1) consumer incentives to select more economical health care options, including self-care and no care, and (2) information and support to inform such selections. We asked health plans that offered consumer-directed products about 2003 enrollment, basic design features, and the availability of decision support. We also asked mainstream health plans about their activities that supported consumerism (e.g., proactive outreach to inform or influence enrollee behavior, such as self-management or preventive care, reminders sent to patients with identified medical conditions.)
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
We analyzed survey responses for all four product lines in order to identify those plans that offer health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), premium-tiered, or point-of-care tiered models as well as efforts of mainstream health plans to engage informed consumer decision making.
Principal Findings
The majority of enrollees in consumer-directed health plans are in tiered models (primarily point-of-care tiered networks) rather than HRAs. Tiers are predominantly determined based on both cost and quality criteria. Enrollment in HRAs has grown substantially, in part because of the entry of mainstream managed care plans into the consumer-directed market. Health reimbursement accounts, tiered networks, and traditional managed care plans vary in their capacity to support consumers in managing their health risks and selection of provider and treatment options, with HRAs providing the most and mainstream plans the least.
While enrollment in consumer-directed health plans continues to grow steadily, it remains a tiny fraction of all employer-sponsored coverage. Decision support in these plans, a critical link to help consumers make more informed choices, is also still limited. This lack may be of concern in light of the fact that only a minority of such plans report that they monitor claims to protect against underuse. Tiered benefit models appear to be more readily accepted by the market than HRAs. If they are to succeed in optimizing consumers' utility from health benefit spending, careful attention needs to be paid to how well these models inform consumers about the consequences of their selections.
PMCID: PMC1361053  PMID: 15230911
Consumer-directed health plans; health reimbursement accounts; consumerism; tiered networks
7.  Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision: Logistics, Commodities, and Waste Management Requirements for Scale-Up of Services 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001128.
Dianna Edgil and colleagues evaluate the supply chain and waste management costs needed to deliver mobile medical male circumcision services to 152,000 men in Swaziland, finding that per-procedure costs almost double when these factors are taken into account.
The global HIV prevention community is implementing voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) programs across eastern and southern Africa, with a goal of reaching 80% coverage in adult males by 2015. Successful implementation will depend on the accessibility of commodities essential for VMMC programming and the appropriate allocation of resources to support the VMMC supply chain. For this, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, has developed a standard list of commodities for VMMC programs.
Methods and Findings
This list of commodities was used to inform program planning for a 1-y program to circumcise 152,000 adult men in Swaziland. During this process, additional key commodities were identified, expanding the standard list to include commodities for waste management, HIV counseling and testing, and the treatment of sexually transmitted infections.
The approximate costs for the procurement of commodities, management of a supply chain, and waste disposal, were determined for the VMMC program in Swaziland using current market prices of goods and services.
Previous costing studies of VMMC programs did not capture supply chain costs, nor the full range of commodities needed for VMMC program implementation or waste management. Our calculations indicate that depending upon the volume of services provided, supply chain and waste management, including commodities and associated labor, contribute between US$58.92 and US$73.57 to the cost of performing one adult male circumcision in Swaziland.
Experience with the VMMC program in Swaziland indicates that supply chain and waste management add approximately US$60 per circumcision, nearly doubling the total per procedure cost estimated previously; these additional costs are used to inform the estimate of per procedure costs modeled by Njeuhmeli et al. in “Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision: Modeling the Impact and Cost of Expanding Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention in Eastern and Southern Africa.” Program planners and policy makers should consider the significant contribution of supply chain and waste management to VMMC program costs as they determine future resource needs for VMMC programs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
About 33 million people (including 22.5 million in sub-Saharan Africa) are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Although antiretroviral drugs keep HIV in check, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is extremely important. Because HIV is usually spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV by abstaining from sex, by having only one or a few partners, and by always using male or female condoms. In addition, trials in sub-Saharan Africa have shown that male circumcision—the removal of the foreskin, the loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—reduces the risk of HIV infection in men by 60%. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) recommended that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) should be part of HIV prevention programs in regions with a generalized HIV epidemic and a low level of male circumcision. Together with the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), WHO, and UNAIDS also prioritized 14 countries in eastern and southern Africa for VMMC program scale-up. Mathematical models suggest that, if 80% VMMC coverage is reached by 2015 (which will entail performing 20.33 million circumcisions between 2011 and 2015) and sustained thereafter, VMMC programs in these priority countries will avert more than 4 million HIV infections among adults between 2009 and 2025.
Why Was This Study Done?
Successful VMMC scale-up will depend on the commodities that are essential for VMMC services being accessible and on the appropriate allocation of resources to support VMMC programs (which, in addition to circumcision, include HIV testing and counseling, sexually transmitted infection screening and treatment, condom provision and promotion, and counseling on risk reduction and safer sex). To help program planners and policy makers, costing studies have been undertaken in several African countries. These studies considered the costs of a standard list of commodities prepared by PEPFAR, WHO, and UNAIDS and estimated that, on average, one male circumcision costs about US$53. However, these studies did not include the costs of the supply chain, waste management, HIV counseling and testing, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, or the temporary infrastructure needed to deliver mobile VMMC services. Here, the researchers estimate these hitherto ignored costs for the Accelerated Saturation Initiative (ASI; Soka Uncobe [Circumcise and Conquer] in SiSwati), a one-year program to circumcise 152,000 men in Swaziland.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used current market prices of goods and services to calculate the fixed and variable costs of various aspects of the VMMC commodity supply chain such as procurement, international freight, in-country distribution to service delivery sites, and warehousing, and of various aspects of waste management, such as the transportation of waste to incinerators and the maintenance of incinerators. They also estimated the staffing costs of supply chain and waste management services. From these component costs, the researchers estimate that, overall, the costs of supply chain and waste management, including procurement of commodities and associated labor, add US$58.92 if 152,000 men are circumcised and US$73.57 if 75,000 men are circumcised to the previously estimated cost of performing one adult male circumcision through the Swaziland ASI VMMC program.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study suggests that, for the Swaziland ASI VMMC program, procurement, supply chain, and waste management costs nearly double the previously estimated cost per VMMC procedure. That is, the supply chain and waste management costs for this program are nearly as high as the costs of the equipment and staff needed to do the circumcisions. Because these costs were not taken into account during the planning stages of Swaziland’s ASI VMMC program, the initial needs assessment for this program underestimated the actual costs by about US$8 million. Although the magnitude of this underestimate cannot be generalized to other settings, this analysis emphasizes the importance of considering the contribution of supply chain and waste management to costs when determining the future resource needs of VMMC programs. Moreover, it provides a framework to help program planners and policy makers estimate the costs involved in the scale-up of VMMC programs in other priority countries.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is part of a PLoS collection of articles on VMMC ( and is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Review Article by Hankins et al. (
Information is available from WHO, UNAIDS, and PEPFAR on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, and information on male circumcision for the prevention of HIV transmission
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on all aspects of HIV prevention, and on HIV/AIDS in Africa and in Swaziland (in English and Spanish)
The Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision, a resource provided by WHO, UNAIDS, and other international bodies, provides information and tools for VMMC policy development and program implementation
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, through NAM/aidsmap, and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3226460  PMID: 22140363
8.  Transnational Tobacco Company Interests in Smokeless Tobacco in Europe: Analysis of Internal Industry Documents and Contemporary Industry Materials 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(9):e1001506.
In light lobbying by transnational tobacco companies to remove the European Union ban on the sale of snus (a smokeless tobacco product), Silvy Peeters and Anna Gilmore explore the motivation behind tobacco companies' interests in smokeless tobacco products in Europe.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
European Union (EU) legislation bans the sale of snus, a smokeless tobacco (SLT) which is considerably less harmful than smoking, in all EU countries other than Sweden. To inform the current review of this legislation, this paper aims to explore transnational tobacco company (TTC) interests in SLT and pure nicotine in Europe from the 1970s to the present, comparing them with TTCs' public claims of support for harm reduction.
Methods and Results
Internal tobacco industry documents (in total 416 documents dating from 1971 to 2009), obtained via searching the online Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, were analysed using a hermeneutic approach. This library comprises documents obtained via litigation in the US and does not include documents from Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, or Swedish Match. To help overcome this limitation and provide more recent data, we triangulated our documentary findings with contemporary documentation including TTC investor presentations. The analysis demonstrates that British American Tobacco explored SLT opportunities in Europe from 1971 driven by regulatory threats and health concerns, both likely to impact cigarette sales negatively, and the potential to create a new form of tobacco use among those no longer interested in taking up smoking. Young people were a key target. TTCs did not, however, make SLT investments until 2002, a time when EU cigarette volumes started declining, smoke-free legislation was being introduced, and public health became interested in harm reduction. All TTCs have now invested in snus (and recently in pure nicotine), yet both early and recent snus test markets appear to have failed, and little evidence was found in TTCs' corporate materials that snus is central to their business strategy.
There is clear evidence that BAT's early interest in introducing SLT in Europe was based on the potential for creating an alternative form of tobacco use in light of declining cigarette sales and social restrictions on smoking, with young people a key target. We conclude that by investing in snus, and recently nicotine, TTCs have eliminated competition between cigarettes and lower-risk products, thus helping maintain the current market balance in favour of (highly profitable) cigarettes while ensuring TTCs' long-term future should cigarette sales decline further and profit margins be eroded.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, about 5 million people die from cancer, heart disease, and other tobacco-related diseases. In recent years, to reduce this growing loss of life, international and national bodies have drawn up various tobacco control conventions and directives. For example, the European Union (EU) Directives on tobacco control call for member states to ban tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship and to adopt taxation policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption. The 2001 EU Tobacco Products Directive also bans the sale of snus, a form of smokeless tobacco (SLT), in all EU countries except Sweden. Snus, which originated in Sweden in the early 19th century, is a moist tobacco product that is placed under the upper lip. Although snus is considerably less harmful than smoking, the sale of snus was banned in the EU in 1992 because of fears that it might cause cancer and was being marketed to young people. When Sweden joined the EU in 1994, exemption from the ban was made a condition of the membership treaty.
Why Was This Study Done?
Transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) have been investing in European snus manufacturers since 2002 and more recently in pure nicotine products, and it has been suggested that, faced with declining cigarette markets in Europe and elsewhere, TTCs are preparing for a “post-cigarette era”. Since 2008, TTCs have been lobbying EU member states and the European Commission to remove the ban on snus sales, arguing that public health would be improved if governments allowed potentially reduced-harm products like snus onto the market. At the end of 2012, however, the European Commission proposed that the ban on snus sales should be continued. Here, to help inform this controversial policy debate, the researchers explore the interest of TTCs in SLT and pure nicotine in Europe from the 1970s to the present by examining internal tobacco documents and compare these interests with public claims of support for harm reduction made by TTCs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By searching the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (internal tobacco industry documents released following US litigation cases), the researchers identified 416 documents that detail the historical interest of TTCs in SLT and pure nicotine and their efforts to enter European markets, and to influence national and EU public-health policy. The researchers analyzed these documents using a “hermeneutic” approach—methodical reading and re-reading of the documents to identify themes and sub-themes. Finally, they used TTC investor presentations and other documents to confirm these themes and to provide recent data on TTC investment in SLT. British American Tobacco (BAT) explored the opportunities for marketing SLT products in Europe from 1971 onwards. This exploration was driven by regulatory threats and health concerns, both of which were likely to impact tobacco sales, and by the potential to create a new form of tobacco use among people no longer interested in taking up smoking. TTCs did not begin to invest in SLT, however, until 2002, a time when EU cigarette sale volumes started to decline, smoke-free legislation was being introduced, and tobacco harm reduction first became a major public-health issue. All the TTCs have now invested in snus even though snus test markets appear to have failed and even though there is little evidence in corporate materials that snus is central to the business strategy of TTCs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that BAT's early interest in SLT in Europe was driven by business concerns and was based on the potential for creating an alternative form of tobacco use among people—particularly young people—who would no longer take up smoking because of health concerns. They also suggest that TTC investments in snus were defensive—by buying up snus manufacturers and more recently nicotine producers, TTCs have eliminated competition between cigarettes and lower-risk products, thereby helping to maintain the current market balance in favor of cigarettes while ensuring the long-term future of TTCs should cigarette sales decline further. Although these findings are limited by the possibility that some relevant documents may have been omitted from this analysis, they nevertheless raise the concern that, if TTC investment in SLT continues, competition between cigarettes and SLT will reduce the potential for harm reduction to benefit public health. Legalization of snus sales in the European Union may therefore have considerably less benefit than envisaged.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides information about the dangers of tobacco (in several languages) and about the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international treaty for tobacco control; for information about the tobacco industry's influence on policy, see the 2009 World Health Organization report Tobacco interference with tobacco control
Details of European Union legislation on the manufacture, presentation, and sale of tobacco products is available (in several languages)
Wikipedia has pages on tobacco harm reduction and on snus (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library is a searchable public database of tobacco company internal documents detailing their advertising, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and scientific activities
The UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is a network of UK universities that undertakes original research, policy development, advocacy, and teaching and training in the field of tobacco control
SmokeFree, a website provided by the UK National Health Service, offers advice on quitting smoking and includes personal stories from people who have stopped smoking, from the US National Cancer Institute, offers online tools and resources to help people quit smoking, an online resource managed by the University of Bath, provides up-to-date information on the tobacco industry and their tactics to influence tobacco regulation
PMCID: PMC3769209  PMID: 24058299
9.  Behavioural Interventions for Type 2 Diabetes 
Executive Summary
In June 2008, the Medical Advisory Secretariat began work on the Diabetes Strategy Evidence Project, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding strategies for successful management and treatment of diabetes. This project came about when the Health System Strategy Division at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care subsequently asked the secretariat to provide an evidentiary platform for the Ministry’s newly released Diabetes Strategy.
After an initial review of the strategy and consultation with experts, the secretariat identified five key areas in which evidence was needed. Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these five areas: insulin pumps, behavioural interventions, bariatric surgery, home telemonitoring, and community based care. For each area, an economic analysis was completed where appropriate and is described in a separate report.
To review these titles within the Diabetes Strategy Evidence series, please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site,,
Diabetes Strategy Evidence Platform: Summary of Evidence-Based Analyses
Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion Pumps for Type 1 and Type 2 Adult Diabetics: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Behavioural Interventions for Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Bariatric Surgery for People with Diabetes and Morbid Obesity: An Evidence-Based Summary
Community-Based Care for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telemonitoring for Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Application of the Ontario Diabetes Economic Model (ODEM) to Determine the Cost-effectiveness and Budget Impact of Selected Type 2 Diabetes Interventions in Ontario
The objective of this report is to determine whether behavioural interventions1 are effective in improving glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a serious chronic condition affecting millions of people worldwide and is the sixth leading cause of death in Canada. In 2005, an estimated 8.8% of Ontario’s population had diabetes, representing more than 816,000 Ontarians. The direct health care cost of diabetes was $1.76 billion in the year 2000 and is projected to rise to a total cost of $3.14 billion by 2016. Much of this cost arises from the serious long-term complications associated with the disease including: coronary heart disease, stroke, adult blindness, limb amputations and kidney disease.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90–95% of diabetes and while type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in people aged 40 years and older, prevalence in younger populations is increasing due to a rise in obesity and physical inactivity in children.
Data from the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) has shown that tight glycemic control can significantly reduce the risk of developing serious complications in type 2 diabetics. Despite physicians’ and patients’ knowledge of the importance of glycemic control, Canadian data has shown that only 38% of patients with diabetes have HbA1C levels in the optimal range of 7% or less. This statistic highlights the complexities involved in the management of diabetes, which is characterized by extensive patient involvement in addition to the support provided by physicians. An enormous demand is, therefore, placed on patients to self-manage the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of living with a chronic illness.
Despite differences in individual needs to cope with diabetes, there is general agreement for the necessity of supportive programs for patient self-management. While traditional programs were didactic models with the goal of improving patients’ knowledge of their disease, current models focus on behavioural approaches aimed at providing patients with the skills and strategies required to promote and change their behaviour.
Several meta-analyses and systematic reviews have demonstrated improved health outcomes with self-management support programs in type 2 diabetics. They have all, however, either looked at a specific component of self-management support programs (i.e. self-management education) or have been conducted in specific populations. Most reviews are also qualitative and do not clearly define the interventions of interest, making findings difficult to interpret. Moreover, heterogeneity in the interventions has led to conflicting evidence on the components of effective programs. There is thus much uncertainty regarding the optimal design and delivery of these programs by policymakers.
Evidence-Based Analysis of Effectiveness
Research Questions
Are behavioural interventions effective in improving glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes?
Is the effectiveness of the intervention impacted by intervention characteristics (e.g. delivery of intervention, length of intervention, mode of instruction, interventionist etc.)?
Inclusion Criteria
English Language
Published between January 1996 to August 2008
Type 2 diabetic adult population (>18 years)
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs)
Systematic reviews, or meta-analyses
Describing a multi-faceted self-management support intervention as defined by the 2007 Self-Management Mapping Guide (1)
Reporting outcomes of glycemic control (HbA1c) with extractable data
Studies with a minimum of 6-month follow up
Exclusion Criteria
Studies with a control group other than usual care
Studies with a sample size <30
Studies without a clearly defined intervention
Outcomes of Interest
Primary outcome: glycemic control (HbA1c)
Secondary outcomes: systolic blood pressure (SBP) control, lipid control, change in smoking status, weight change, quality of life, knowledge, self-efficacy, managing psychosocial aspects of diabetes, assessing dissatisfaction and readiness to change, and setting and achieving diabetes goals.
Search Strategy
A search was performed in OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), The Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published between January 1996 and August 2008. Abstracts were reviewed by a single author and studies meeting the inclusion criteria outlined above were obtained. Data on population characteristics, glycemic control outcomes, and study design were extracted. Reference lists were also checked for relevant studies. The quality of the evidence was assessed as being either high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE methodology.
Summary of Findings
The search identified 638 citations published between 1996 and August 2008, of which 12 met the inclusion criteria and one was a meta-analysis (Gary et al. 2003). The remaining 11 studies were RCTs (9 were used in the meta-analysis) and only one was defined as small (total sample size N=47).
Summary of Participant Demographics across studies
A total of 2,549 participants were included in the 11 identified studies. The mean age of participants reported was approximately 58 years and the mean duration of diabetes was approximately 6 years. Most studies reported gender with a mean percentage of females of approximately 67%. Of the eleven studies, two focused only on women and four included only Hispanic individuals. All studies evaluated type 2 diabetes patients exclusively.
Study Characteristics
The studies were conducted between 2002 and 2008. Approximately six of 11 studies were carried out within the USA, with the remaining studies conducted in the UK, Sweden, and Israel (sample size ranged from 47 to 824 participants). The quality of the studies ranged from moderate to low with four of the studies being of moderate quality and the remaining seven of low quality (based on the Consort Checklist). Differences in quality were mainly due to methodological issues such as inadequate description of randomization, sample size calculation allocation concealment, blinding and uncertainty of the use of intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis. Patients were recruited from several settings: six studies from primary or general medical practices, three studies from the community (e.g. via advertisements), and two from outpatient diabetes clinics. A usual care control group was reported in nine of 11 of the studies and two studies reported some type of minimal diabetes care in addition to usual care for the control group.
Intervention Characteristics
All of the interventions examined in the studies were mapped to the 2007 Self-management Mapping Guide. The interventions most often focused on problem solving, goal setting and encouraging participants to engage in activities that protect and promote health (e.g. modifying behaviour, change in diet, and increase physical activity). All of the studies examined comprehensive interventions targeted at least two self-care topics (e.g. diet, physical activity, blood glucose monitoring, foot care, etc.). Despite the homogeneity in the aims of the interventions, there was substantial clinical heterogeneity in other intervention characteristics such as duration, intensity, setting, mode of delivery (group vs. individual), interventionist, and outcomes of interest (discussed below).
Duration, Intensity and Mode of Delivery
Intervention durations ranged from 2 days to 1 year, with many falling into the range of 6 to 10 weeks. The rest of the interventions fell into categories of ≤ 2 weeks (2 studies), 6 months (2 studies), or 1 year (3 studies). Intensity of the interventions varied widely from 6 hours over 2 days, to 52 hours over 1 year; however, the majority consisted of interventions of 6 to 15 hours. Both individual and group sessions were used to deliver interventions. Group counselling was used in five studies as a mode of instruction, three studies used both individual and group sessions, and one study used individual sessions as its sole mode of instruction. Three studies also incorporated the use of telephone support as part of the intervention.
Interventionists and Setting
The following interventionists were reported (highest to lowest percentage, categories not mutually exclusive): nurse (36%), dietician (18%), physician (9%), pharmacist (9%), peer leader/community worker (18%), and other (36%). The ‘other’ category included interventionists such as consultants and facilitators with unspecified professional backgrounds. The setting of most interventions was community-based (seven studies), followed by primary care practices (three studies). One study described an intervention conducted in a pharmacy setting.
Duration of follow up of the studies ranged from 6 months to 8 years with a median follow-up duration of 12 months. Nine studies followed up patients at a minimum of two time points. Despite clear reporting of outcomes at follow up time points, there was poor reporting on whether the follow up was measured from participant entry into study or from end of intervention. All studies reported measures of glycemic control, specifically HbA1c levels. BMI was measured in five studies, while body weight was reported in two studies. Cholesterol was examined in three studies and blood pressure reduction in two. Smoking status was only examined in one of the studies. Additional outcomes examined in the trials included patient satisfaction, quality of life, diabetes knowledge, diabetes medication reduction, and behaviour modification (i.e. daily consumption of fruits/vegetables, exercise etc). Meta-analysis of the studies identified a moderate but significant reduction in HbA1c levels -0.44% 95%CI: -0.60, -0.29) for behavioural interventions in comparison to usual care for adults with type 2 diabetes. Subgroup analyses suggested the largest effects in interventions which were of at least duration and interventions in diabetics with higher baseline HbA1c (≥9.0). The quality of the evidence according to GRADE for the overall estimate was moderate and the quality of evidence for the subgroup analyses was identified as low.
Summary of Meta-Analysis of Studies Investigating the Effectiveness of Behavioural Interventions on HbA1c in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.
Based on one study
Based on moderate quality evidence, behavioural interventions as defined by the 2007 Self-management mapping guide (Government of Victoria, Australia) produce a moderate reduction in HbA1c levels in patients with type 2 diabetes compared with usual care.
Based on low quality evidence, the interventions with the largest effects are those:
- in diabetics with higher baseline HbA1c (≥9.0)
- in which the interventions were of at least 1 year in duration
PMCID: PMC3377516  PMID: 23074526
10.  A self-evaluation tool for integrated care services: the Development Model for Integrated Care applied in practice 
The purpose of the workshop is to show the applications of the Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC) in practice. This relatively new and validated model, can be used by integrated care practices to evaluate their integrated care, to assess their phase of development and reveal improvement areas. In the workshop the results of the use of the model in three types of integrated care settings in the Netherlands will be presented. Participants are offered practical instruments based on the validated DMIC to use in their own setting and will be introduced to the webbased tool.
To integrate care from multiple providers into a coherent and streamlined client-focused service, a large number of activities and agreements have to be implemented like streamlining information flows and adequate transfers of clients. In the large range of possible activities it is often not clear what essential activities are and where to start or continue. Also, knowledge about how to further develop integrated care services is needed. The Development Model for Integrated Care (DMIC), based on PhD research of Mirella Minkman, describes nine clusters containing in total 89 elements that contribute to the integration of care. The clusters are named: ‘client-centeredness’, ‘delivery system’, ‘performance management’, ‘quality of care’, ‘result-focused learning’, ‘interprofessional teamwork’, ‘roles and tasks’, ‘commitment’, and ‘transparant entrepreneurship’ [1–3]. In 2011 a new digital webbased self-evolution tool which contains the 89 elements grouped in nine clusters was developed. The DMIC also describes four phases of development [4]. The model is empirically validated in practice by assessing the relevance and implementation of the elements and development phases in 84 integrated care services in The Netherlands: in stroke, acute myocardial infarct (AMI), and dementia services. The validation studies are recently published [5, 6]. In 2011 also other integrated care services started using the model [7]. Vilans developed a digital web-based self-evaluation tool for integrated care services based on the DMIC. A palliative care network, four diabetes services, a youth care service and a network for autism used the self-evaluation tool to evaluate the development of their integrated care service. Because of its generic character, the model and tool are believed to be also interesting internationally.
Data sources
In the workshop we will present the results of three studies in integrated diabetes, youth and palliative care. The three projects consist of multiple steps, see below. Workshop participants could also work with the DMIC following these steps.
One: Preparation of the digital self-evolution tool for integrated care services
Although they are very different, the three integrated care services all wanted to gain insight in their development and improvement opportunities. We tailored the digital self-evaluation tool for each specific integrated care services, but for all the basis was the DMIC. Personal accounts for the digital DMIC self-evalution survey were sent to multiple partners working in each integrated care service (4–16 partners).
Two: Use of the online self-evaluation tool each partner of the local integrated care setting evaluated the integrated care by filling in the web-based questionnaire. The tool consists of three parts (A-C) named: general information about the integrated care practice (A); the clusters and elements of the DMIC (B); and the four phases of development (C). The respondents rated the relevance and presence of each element in their integrated care practice. Respondents were asked to estimate in which phase of development their thought their service was.
Three: Analysing the results
Advisers from Vilans, the Centre of excellence for long-term care in the Netherlands, analysed the self-evolution results in cooperation with the integrated care coordinators. The results show the total amount of implemented integrated care elements per cluster in spider graphs and the development phase as calculated by the DMIC model. Suggestions for further development of the integrated care services were analysed and reported.
Four: Discussing the implications for further development
In a workshop with the local integrated care partners the results of the self-evaluation were presented and discussed. We noticed remarkable results and highlight elements for further development. In addition, we gave advice for further development appropriate to the development phase of the integrated care service. Furthermore, the professionals prioritized the elements and decided which elements to start working on. This resulted in a (quality improvement) plan for the further development of the integrated care service.
Five: Reporting results
In a report all the results of the survey (including consensus scores) and the workshops came together. The integrated care coordinators stated that the reports really helped them to assess their improvement strategy. Also, there was insight in the development phase of their service which gave tools for further development.
Case description
The three cases presented are a palliative network, an integrated diabetes services and an integrated care network for youth in the Netherlands. The palliative care network wanted to reflect on their current development, to build a guiding framework for further development of the network. About sixteen professionals within the network worked with the digital self-evaluation tool and the DMIC: home care organisations, welfare organizations, hospice centres, health care organisations, community organizations.
For diabetes care, a Dutch health care insurance company wished to gain insight in the development of the contracted integrated care services to stimulate further development of the services. Professionals of three diabetes integrated care services were invited to fill in the digital self-evaluation tool. Of each integrated care service professionals like a general practitioner, a diabetes nurse, a medical specialist, a dietician and a podiatrist were invited. In youth care, a local health organisation wondered whether the DMIC could be helpful to visualize the results of youth integrated care services at process- and organisational level. The goal of the project was to define indicators at a process- and organisational level for youth care services based on the DMIC. In the future, these indicators might be used to evaluate youth care integrated care services and improve the quality of youth care within the Netherlands.
Conclusions and discussion
It is important for the quality of integrated care services that the involved coordinators, managers and professionals are aware of the development process of the integrated care service and that they focus on elements which can further develop and improve their integrated care. However, we noticed that integrated care services in the Netherlands experience difficulties in developing their integrated care service. It is often not clear what essential activities are to work on and how to further develop the integrated care service. A guiding framework for the development of integrated care was missing. The DMIC model has been developed for that reason and offers a useful tool for assessment, self-evaluation or improvement of integrated care services in practice. The model has been validated for AMI, dementia and stroke services. The latest new studies in diabetes, palliative care and youth care gave further insight in the generic character of the DMIC. Based on these studies it can be assumed that the DMIC can be used for multiple types of integrated care services. The model is assumed to be interesting for an international audience. Improving integrated care is a complex topic in a large number of countries; the DMIC is also based on the international literature. Dutch integrated care coordinators stated that the DMIC helped them to assess their integrated care development in practice and supported them in obtaining ideas for expanding and improving their integrated care activities.
The web-based self-evaluation tool focuses on a process- and organisational level of integrated care. Also, the self assessed development phase can be compared to the development phase as calculated by the DMIC tool. The cases showed this is fruitful input for discussions. When using the tool, the results can also be used in quality policy reports and improvement plans. The web-based tool is being tested at this moment in practice, but in San Marino we can present the latest webversion and demonstrate with a short video how to use the tool and model. During practical exercises in the workshop the participants will experience how the application of the DMIC can work for them in practice or in research. For integrated care researchers and policy makers, the DMIC questionnaire and tool is a promising method for further research and policy plans in integrated care.
PMCID: PMC3617779
development model for integrated care; development of integrated care services; implementation and improvement of integrated care; self evaluation
11.  The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Health Care: A Systematic Overview 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000387.
Aziz Sheikh and colleagues report the findings of their systematic overview that assessed the impact of eHealth solutions on the quality and safety of health care.
There is considerable international interest in exploiting the potential of digital solutions to enhance the quality and safety of health care. Implementations of transformative eHealth technologies are underway globally, often at very considerable cost. In order to assess the impact of eHealth solutions on the quality and safety of health care, and to inform policy decisions on eHealth deployments, we undertook a systematic review of systematic reviews assessing the effectiveness and consequences of various eHealth technologies on the quality and safety of care.
Methods and Findings
We developed novel search strategies, conceptual maps of health care quality, safety, and eHealth interventions, and then systematically identified, scrutinised, and synthesised the systematic review literature. Major biomedical databases were searched to identify systematic reviews published between 1997 and 2010. Related theoretical, methodological, and technical material was also reviewed. We identified 53 systematic reviews that focused on assessing the impact of eHealth interventions on the quality and/or safety of health care and 55 supplementary systematic reviews providing relevant supportive information. This systematic review literature was found to be generally of substandard quality with regards to methodology, reporting, and utility. We thematically categorised eHealth technologies into three main areas: (1) storing, managing, and transmission of data; (2) clinical decision support; and (3) facilitating care from a distance. We found that despite support from policymakers, there was relatively little empirical evidence to substantiate many of the claims made in relation to these technologies. Whether the success of those relatively few solutions identified to improve quality and safety would continue if these were deployed beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed, has yet to be established. Importantly, best practice guidelines in effective development and deployment strategies are lacking.
There is a large gap between the postulated and empirically demonstrated benefits of eHealth technologies. In addition, there is a lack of robust research on the risks of implementing these technologies and their cost-effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated, despite being frequently promoted by policymakers and “techno-enthusiasts” as if this was a given. In the light of the paucity of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, it is vital that future eHealth technologies are evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle. Such evaluation should be characterised by careful attention to socio-technical factors to maximise the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
There is considerable international interest in exploiting the potential of digital health care solutions, often referred to as eHealth—the use of information and communication technologies—to enhance the quality and safety of health care. Often accompanied by large costs, any large-scale expenditure on eHealth—such as electronic health records, picture archiving and communication systems, ePrescribing, associated computerized provider order entry systems, and computerized decision support systems—has tended to be justified on the grounds that these are efficient and cost-effective means for improving health care. In 2005, the World Health Assembly passed an eHealth resolution (WHA 58.28) that acknowledged, “eHealth is the cost-effective and secure use of information and communications technologies in support of health and health-related fields, including health-care services, health surveillance, health literature, and health education, knowledge and research,” and urged member states to develop and implement eHealth technologies. Since then, implementing eHealth technologies has become a main priority for many countries. For example, England has invested at least £12.8 billion in a National Programme for Information Technology for the National Health Service, and the Obama administration in the United States has committed to a US$38 billion eHealth investment in health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite the wide endorsement of and support for eHealth, the scientific basis of its benefits—which are repeatedly made and often uncritically accepted—remains to be firmly established. A robust evidence-based perspective on the advantages on eHealth could help to suggest priority areas that have the greatest potential for benefit to patients and also to inform international eHealth deliberations on costs. Therefore, in order to better inform the international community, the authors systematically reviewed the published systematic review literature on eHealth technologies and evaluated the impact of these technologies on the quality and safety of health care delivery.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers divided eHealth technologies into three main categories: (1) storing, managing, and transmission of data; (2) clinical decision support; and (3) facilitating care from a distance. Then, implementing methods based on those developed by the Cochrane Collaboration and the NHS Service Delivery and Organisation Programme, the researchers used detailed search strategies and maps of health care quality, safety, and eHealth interventions to identify relevant systematic reviews (and related theoretical, methodological, and technical material) published between 1997 and 2010. Using these techniques, the researchers retrieved a total of 46,349 references from which they identified 108 reviews. The 53 reviews that the researchers finally selected (and critically reviewed) provided the main evidence base for assessing the impact of eHealth technologies in the three categories selected.
In their systematic review of systematic reviews, the researchers included electronic health records and picture archiving communications systems in their evaluation of category 1, computerized provider (or physician) order entry and e-prescribing in category 2, and all clinical information systems that, when used in the context of eHealth technologies, integrate clinical and demographic patient information to support clinician decision making in category 3.
The researchers found that many of the clinical claims made about the most commonly used eHealth technologies were not substantiated by empirical evidence. The evidence base in support of eHealth technologies was weak and inconsistent and importantly, there was insubstantial evidence to support the cost-effectiveness of these technologies. For example, the researchers only found limited evidence that some of the many presumed benefits could be realized; importantly, they also found some evidence that introducing these new technologies may on occasions also generate new risks such as prescribers becoming over-reliant on clinical decision support for e-prescribing, or overestimate its functionality, resulting in decreased practitioner performance.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers found that despite the wide support for eHealth technologies and the frequently made claims by policy makers when constructing business cases to raise funds for large-scale eHealth projects, there is as yet relatively little empirical evidence to substantiate many of the claims made about eHealth technologies. In addition, even for the eHealth technology tools that have proven to be successful, there is little evidence to show that such tools would continue to be successful beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed. Therefore, in light of the lack of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, the authors say that future eHealth technologies should be evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle, and include socio-technical factors to maximize the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption in a given context. Furthermore, it is equally important that eHealth projects that have already been commissioned are subject to rigorous, multidisciplinary, and independent evaluation.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The authors' broader study is: Car J, Black A, Anandan C, Cresswell K, Pagliari C, McKinstry B, et al. (2008) The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Healthcare. Available at:
More information is available on the World Health Assembly eHealth resolution
The World Health Organization provides information at the Global Observatory on eHealth, as well as a global insight into eHealth developments
The European Commission provides Information on eHealth in Europe and some examples of good eHealth practice
More information is provided on NHS Connecting for Health
PMCID: PMC3022523  PMID: 21267058
12.  The Opportunity for Health Plans to Improve Quality and Reduce Costs by Embracing Primary Care Medical Homes 
The large and growing costs of healthcare will continue to burden all payers in the nation's healthcare system—not only the states that are struggling to meet Medicaid costs and the federal government, but also the private health plans that serve commercial, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid beneficiaries. Cost will increasingly become a concern as millions more people become newly insured as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Primary care delivery through patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs) and other coordinated-care models have improved care and reduced costs. Health plans have a strategic opportunity to promote better care at a lower cost by embracing medical homes and encouraging their growth. Health plans can play an important role in transforming the US healthcare system, as well as better position themselves for long-term corporate success.
To discuss several examples of organizations that serve a variety of beneficiaries and have been successful in promoting medical homes and coordinated primary care, and to suggest steps that health plans can take to improve the quality of care and reduce costs.
The models discussed in this article take a number of different approaches to create incentives for high-quality, cost-effective, coordinated primary care. Several health plans and groups use enhanced fee-for-service or per-member per-month payment models for primary care physician (PCP) practices that reach a specified level of medical home or electronic health record certification. Most of the examples addressed in this article also include an additional payment to encourage care management and coordination. The results showed a significant decline in costs and in the use of expensive medical services. One Medicaid coordinated-care program we reviewed saved almost $1 billion in reduced spending over 4 years, and achieves savings of approximately 15% within 6 months of the beneficiaries' enrollment into their program. Another PCMH payer program led to an approximate 28% reduction in acute care hospital admissions among Medicare beneficiaries and an approximate 38% reduction in admissions among commercial beneficiaries.
Based on the review of real-world examples, we recommend 6 steps that health plans can use to take advantage of the opportunity to embrace medical homes as a means to improve healthcare quality and to reduce costs. These recommendations include getting feedback from PCPs to improve plan provider networks, creating value-based primary care reimbursement systems, encouraging biannual visits with high-risk patients, funding case managers for high-risk patients, considering Medicaid coordinated-care models, and promoting ACA policies that support primary care.
PMCID: PMC4031704  PMID: 24991345
13.  Cost analysis of in-centre nocturnal compared with conventional hemodialysis 
Provision of in-centre nocturnal hemodialysis (ICNHD; 6–8 hours thrice weekly) is associated with health benefits, but the economic implications of providing this treatment are unclear.
We conducted a health care costing study comparing ICNHD to in-centre thrice-weekly conventional hemodialysis (CvHD).
Micro-costing of both ICNHD and CvHD as practiced at our centre.
Hemodialysis unit at a tertiary-care hospital in Edmonton.
An informal survey of 2 other Canadian ICNHD programs was conducted to inform practices that may deviate from ours to guide sensitivity analysis.
Resources consumed for each strategy were determined, and the cost of each unit (CAN $2012) was used to calculate incremental costs of ICNHD and CvHD.
We focused on resources that differ between strategies (staffing, dialysis materials, and utilities). The reference case considered 1:3 staff to patient ratio; alternate scenarios explored nursing pay grade and ratio, full care vs. self-care dialysis (including training costs), and medication costs.
In the reference case, ICNHD was $61 more costly per dialysis treatment compared with CvHD ($9,538 per patient per year). Incremental annual costs for staffing, dialysis materials, and utilities were $8,201, $1,193, and $144, respectively. If ICNHD reduces medication use (anti-hypertensives, bone mineral metabolism medications), the incremental cost of ICNHD decreases to $8,620 per patient per year. In a scenario of self-care ICNHD utilizing a staff-to-patient ratio of 1:10, ICNHD is more costly in year 1 ($15,196), but results in cost savings of $2,625 in subsequent years compared with CvHD.
The findings of this cost analysis may not be generalizable to other health care systems, including other parts of Canada.
Compared to CvHD, provision of ICNHD is more expensive, largely driven by increased staffing costs as patients dialyze longer. Alternate staffing models, including self-care ICNHD with minimal staff, may lead to net cost savings. The incremental cost of treatment should be considered in the context of impact on patient health outcomes, staffing model, and pragmatic factors, such as current capacity for daytime CvHD and the capital costs of new dialysis stations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2054-3581-1-14) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4349597  PMID: 25780609
Health care costs; Economic analysis; Hemodialysis; In-centre nocturnal hemodialysis
14.  Alternative Strategies to Reduce Maternal Mortality in India: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000264.
A cost-effectiveness study by Sue Goldie and colleagues finds that better family planning, provision of safe abortion, and improved intrapartum and emergency obstetrical care could reduce maternal mortality in India by 75% in 5 years.
Approximately one-quarter of all pregnancy- and delivery-related maternal deaths worldwide occur in India. Taking into account the costs, feasibility, and operational complexity of alternative interventions, we estimate the clinical and population-level benefits associated with strategies to improve the safety of pregnancy and childbirth in India.
Methods and Findings
Country- and region-specific data were synthesized using a computer-based model that simulates the natural history of pregnancy (both planned and unintended) and pregnancy- and childbirth-associated complications in individual women; and considers delivery location, attendant, and facility level. Model outcomes included clinical events, population measures, costs, and cost-effectiveness ratios. Separate models were adapted to urban and rural India using survey-based data (e.g., unmet need for birth spacing/limiting, facility births, skilled birth attendants). Model validation compared projected maternal indicators with empiric data. Strategies consisted of improving coverage of effective interventions that could be provided individually or packaged as integrated services, could reduce the incidence of a complication or its case fatality rate, and could include improved logistics such as reliable transport to an appropriate referral facility as well as recognition of referral need and quality of care. Increasing family planning was the most effective individual intervention to reduce pregnancy-related mortality. If over the next 5 y the unmet need for spacing and limiting births was met, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be prevented; more than US$1 billion saved; and at least one of every two abortion-related deaths averted. Still, reductions in maternal mortality reached a threshold (∼23%–35%) without including strategies that ensured reliable access to intrapartum and emergency obstetrical care (EmOC). An integrated and stepwise approach was identified that would ultimately prevent four of five maternal deaths; this approach coupled stepwise improvements in family planning and safe abortion with consecutively implemented strategies that incrementally increased skilled attendants, improved antenatal/postpartum care, shifted births away from home, and improved recognition of referral need, transport, and availability/quality of EmOC. The strategies in this approach ranged from being cost-saving to having incremental cost-effectiveness ratios less than US$500 per year of life saved (YLS), well below India's per capita gross domestic product (GDP), a common benchmark for cost-effectiveness.
Early intensive efforts to improve family planning and control of fertility choices and to provide safe abortion, accompanied by a paced systematic and stepwise effort to scale up capacity for integrated maternal health services over several years, is as cost-effective as childhood immunization or treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, or HIV. In just 5 y, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be averted through increasing contraception rates to meet women's needs for spacing and limiting births; nearly US$1.5 billion would be saved by coupling safe abortion to aggressive family planning efforts; and with stepwise investments to improve access to pregnancy-related health services and to high-quality facility-based intrapartum care, more than 75% of maternal deaths could be prevented. If accomplished over the next decade, the lives of more than one million women would be saved.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every year, more than half a million women—most of them living in developing countries—die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. About a quarter of these “maternal” deaths occur in India. In 2005, a woman's lifetime risk of maternal death in India was 1 in 70; in the UK, it was only one in 8,200. Similarly, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR; number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) in India was 450, whereas in the UK it was eight. Faced with the enormous maternal death toll in India and other developing countries, in September 2000, the United Nations pledged, as its fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5), that the global MMR would be reduced to a quarter of its 1990 level by 2015. Currently, it seems unlikely that this target will be met. Between 1990 and 2005, global maternal deaths decreased by only 1% per annum instead of the 5% needed to reach MDG 5; in India, the decrease in maternal deaths between 1990 and 2005 was about 1.8% per annum.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most maternal deaths in developing countries are caused by severe bleeding after childbirth, infections soon after delivery, blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, and obstructed (difficult) labors. Consequently, experts agree that universal access to high-quality routine care during labor (“obstetric” care) and to emergency obstetrical care is needed to reduce maternal deaths. However, there is less agreement about how to adapt these “ideal recommendations” to specific situations. In developing countries with weak health systems and predominantly rural populations, it is unlikely that all women will have access to emergency obstetric care in the near future—so would beginning with improved access to family planning and to safe abortions (unsafe abortion is another major cause of maternal death) be a more achievable, more cost-effective way of reducing maternal deaths? How would family planning and safe abortion be coupled efficiently and cost-effectively with improved access to intrapartum care? In this study, the researchers investigate these questions by estimating the health and economic outcomes of various strategies to reduce maternal mortality in India.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a computer-based model that simulates women through pregnancy and childbirth to estimate the effect of different strategies (for example, increased family planning or increased access to obstetric care) on clinical outcomes (pregnancies, live births, or deaths), costs, and cost-effectiveness (the cost of saving one year of life) in India. Increased family planning was the most effective single intervention for the reduction of pregnancy-related mortality. If the current unmet need for family planning in India could be fulfilled over the next 5 years, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be prevented, more than US$1 billion saved, and at least half of abortion-related deaths averted. However, increased family planning alone would reduce maternal deaths by 35% at most, so the researchers also used their model to test the effect of combinations of strategies on maternal death. They found that an integrated and stepwise approach (increased family planning and safe abortion combined with consecutively increased skilled birth attendants, improved care before and after birth, reduced home births, and improved emergency obstetric care) could eventually prevent nearly 80% of maternal deaths. All the steps in this strategy either saved money or involved an additional cost per year of life saved of less than US$500; given one suggested threshold for cost-effectiveness in India of the per capita GDP (US$1,068) per year of life saved, these strategies would be considered very cost-effective.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The accuracy of these findings depends on the assumptions used to build the model and the quality of the data fed into it. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that early intensive efforts to improve family planning and to provide safe abortion accompanied by a systematic, stepwise effort to improve integrated maternal health services could reduce maternal deaths in India by more than 75% in less than a decade. Furthermore, such a strategy would be cost-effective. Indeed, note the researchers, the cost savings from an initial focus on family planning and safe abortion provision would partly offset the resources needed to assure that every woman had access to high quality routine and emergency obstetric care. Thus, overall, these findings suggest that MDG 5 may be within reach in India, a conclusion that should help to mobilize political support for this worthy goal.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank 2005 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization also provides information on maternal health and about MDG 5 (in several languages)
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals Web site provides detailed information about the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs, their targets and their indicators, and about MDG 5.
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 and its progress chart provide an up-to-date assessment of progress toward all the MDGs
Computer simulation modeling as applied to health is further discussed at the Center for Health Decision Science at Harvard University
PMCID: PMC2857650  PMID: 20421922
15.  Physician Awareness of Drug Cost: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(9):e283.
Pharmaceutical costs are the fastest-growing health-care expense in most developed countries. Higher drug costs have been shown to negatively impact patient outcomes. Studies suggest that doctors have a poor understanding of pharmaceutical costs, but the data are variable and there is no consistent pattern in awareness. We designed this systematic review to investigate doctors' knowledge of the relative and absolute costs of medications and to determine the factors that influence awareness.
Methods and Findings
Our search strategy included The Cochrane Library, EconoLit, EMBASE, and MEDLINE as well as reference lists and contact with authors who had published two or more articles on the topic or who had published within 10 y of the commencement of our review. Studies were included if: either doctors, trainees (interns or residents), or medical students were surveyed; there were more than ten survey respondents; cost of pharmaceuticals was estimated; results were expressed quantitatively; there was a clear description of how authors defined “accurate estimates”; and there was a description of how the true cost was determined. Two authors reviewed each article for eligibility and extracted data independently. Cost accuracy outcomes were summarized, but data were not combined in meta-analysis because of extensive heterogeneity. Qualitative data related to physicians and drug costs were also extracted. The final analysis included 24 articles. Cost accuracy was low; 31% of estimates were within 20% or 25% of the true cost, and fewer than 50% were accurate by any definition of cost accuracy. Methodological weaknesses were common, and studies of low methodological quality showed better cost awareness. The most important factor influencing the pattern and accuracy of estimation was the true cost of therapy. High-cost drugs were estimated more accurately than inexpensive ones (74% versus 31%, Chi-square p < 0.001). Doctors consistently overestimated the cost of inexpensive products and underestimated the cost of expensive ones (binomial test, 89/101, p < 0.001). When asked, doctors indicated that they want cost information and feel it would improve their prescribing but that it is not accessible.
Doctors' ignorance of costs, combined with their tendency to underestimate the price of expensive drugs and overestimate the price of inexpensive ones, demonstrate a lack of appreciation of the large difference in cost between inexpensive and expensive drugs. This discrepancy in turn could have profound implications for overall drug expenditures. Much more focus is required in the education of physicians about costs and the access to cost information. Future research should focus on the accessibility and reliability of medical cost information and whether the provision of this information is used by doctors and makes a difference to physician prescribing. Additionally, future work should strive for higher methodological standards to avoid the biases we found in the current literature, including attention to the method of assessing accuracy that allows larger absolute estimation ranges for expensive drugs.
From a review of data from 24 studies, Michael Allan and colleagues conclude that doctors often underestimate the price of expensive drugs and overestimate the price of those that are inexpensive.
Editors' Summary
Many medicines are extremely expensive, and the cost of buying them is a major (and increasing) proportion of the total cost of health care. Governments and health-care organizations try to find ways of keeping down costs without reducing the effectiveness of the health care they provide, but their efforts to control what is spent on medicines have not been very successful. There are often two or more equally effective drugs available for treating the same condition, and it would obviously help keep costs down if, when a doctor prescribes a medicine, he or she chose the cheapest of the effective drugs available. This choice could result in savings for whoever is paying for the drugs, be it the government, the patient, or a medical insurance organization.
Why Was This Study Done?
Doctors who prescribe drugs cannot be expected to know the exact cost of each drug on the market, but it would he helpful if they had some impression of the cost of a treatment and how the various alternatives compare in price. However, systems deciding how drugs are priced are often very complex. (This is particularly the case in the US.) The researchers wanted to find out how aware doctors are regarding drug costs and the difference between the alternatives. They also wanted to know what factors affected their awareness.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They decided to do a systematic review of all the research already conducted that addressed this issue so that the evidence from all of them could be considered together. In order to do such a review they had to specify precise requirements for the type of study that they would include and then comprehensively search the medical literature for such studies. They found 24 studies that met their requirements. From these studies, they concluded that doctors were usually not accurate when asked to estimate the cost of drugs; doctors came up with estimates that were within 25% of the true cost less than one-third of the time. In particular doctors tended to underestimate the cost of expensive drugs and overestimate the cost of the cheaper alternatives. A further analysis of the studies showed that many doctors said they would appreciate more accurate information on costs to help them choose which drugs to prescribe but that such information was not readily available.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers concluded that their systematic review demonstrates a lack of appreciation by prescribing doctors of the large difference in cost between inexpensive and expensive drugs, and that this finding has serious implications for overall spending on drugs. They call for more education and information to be provided to doctors on the cost of medicines together with better processes to help doctors in making such decisions.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A brief guide to systematic reviews has been published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal)
The Web site of the Cochrane Collaboration is a more detailed source of information on systematic reviews; in particular there is a newcomers' guide and information for health-care consumers
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, private operating foundation focusing on the major health care issues in the US, has a section on prescription drugs and their costs
PMCID: PMC1989748  PMID: 17896856
16.  Emerging Trends in Cancer Care: Health Plans’ and Pharmacy Benefit Managers’ Perspectives on Changing Care Models 
American Health & Drug Benefits  2012;5(4):242-253.
Cancer care in the United States is being transformed by a number of medical and economic trends, including rising drug costs, increasing availability of targeted therapies and oral oncolytic agents, healthcare reform legislation, changing reimbursement practices, a growing emphasis on comparative effectiveness research (CER), the emerging role of accountable care organizations (ACOs), and the increased role of personalization of cancer care.
To examine the attitudes of health plan payers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) toward recent changes in cancer care, current cost-management strategies, and anticipated changes in oncology practice during the next 5 years.
An online survey with approximately 200 questions was conducted by Reimbursement Intelligence in 2011. The survey was completed by 24 medical directors and 31 pharmacy directors from US national and regional health plans and 8 PBMs. All respondents are part of a proprietary panel of managed care decision makers and are members of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committees of their respective plans, which together manage more than 150 million lives. Survey respondents received an honorarium for completing the survey. The survey included quantitative and qualitative questions about recent developments in oncology management, such as the impact on their plans or PBMs of healthcare reform, quality improvement initiatives, changes in reimbursement and financial incentives, use of targeted and oral oncolytics, and personalized medicine. Respondents were treated as 1 group, because there were no evident differences in responses between medical and pharmacy directors or PBMs.
Overall, survey respondents expressed interest in monitoring and controlling the costs of cancer therapy, and they anticipated increased use of specialty pharmacy for oncology drugs. When clinical outcomes are similar for oral oncolytics and injectable treatments, 93% prefer the oral agents, which are covered under the specialty tier by 59% of the plans. The use of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network practice guidelines for coverage and reimbursement of oncologic agents is reported as “very frequent” by 10% of survey respondents, “frequent” by 21%, and “moderately frequent” by 7%. Most (66%) respondents believe that it is probable and 3% believe it is highly probable that healthcare reform will help to control oncology treatment costs, although 59% also predict an increase in utilization restrictions and 48% predict more stringent comparative effectiveness evidence requirements. The survey reveals a considerable uncertainty among health plans and PBMs about the eventual impact of ACOs on oncology care. Although 82% of those surveyed believe that measures such as increasing adherence to evidence-based treatments will achieve cost-savings, nearly half (48%) had no plans to use such measures.
Recent trends in healthcare legislation, rising drug costs, and changing reimbursement practices are poised to significantly alter conventional models of cancer care delivery and payment. The results of this survey indicate that health plans and PBMs anticipate greater use of evidence-based management strategies, including CER, quality initiatives, and biomarker testing for appropriate cancer therapy selection. In addition, they anticipate greater focus on cost control, with a greater role for utilization management and increased patient cost-sharing. Finally, there is a high level of uncertainty among plans and PBMs about the eventual impact of ACOs and other aspects of healthcare reform on oncology practice.
PMCID: PMC4046474  PMID: 24991323
17.  Effect of a Community-Based Nursing Intervention on Mortality in Chronically Ill Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001265.
Kenneth Coburn and colleagues report findings from a randomized trial evaluating the effects of a complex nursing intervention on mortality risk among older individuals diagnosed with chronic health conditions.
Improving the health of chronically ill older adults is a major challenge facing modern health care systems. A community-based nursing intervention developed by Health Quality Partners (HQP) was one of 15 different models of care coordination tested in randomized controlled trials within the Medicare Coordinated Care Demonstration (MCCD), a national US study. Evaluation of the HQP program began in 2002. The study reported here was designed to evaluate the survival impact of the HQP program versus usual care up to five years post-enrollment.
Methods and Findings
HQP enrolled 1,736 adults aged 65 and over, with one or more eligible chronic conditions (coronary artery disease, heart failure, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, or hyperlipidemia) during the first six years of the study. The intervention group (n = 873) was offered a comprehensive, integrated, and tightly managed system of care coordination, disease management, and preventive services provided by community-based nurse care managers working collaboratively with primary care providers. The control group (n = 863) received usual care. Overall, a 25% lower relative risk of death (hazard ratio [HR] 0.75 [95% CI 0.57–1.00], p = 0.047) was observed among intervention participants with 86 (9.9%) deaths in the intervention group and 111 (12.9%) deaths in the control group during a mean follow-up of 4.2 years. When covariates for sex, age group, primary diagnosis, perceived health, number of medications taken, hospital stays in the past 6 months, and tobacco use were included, the adjusted HR was 0.73 (95% CI 0.55–0.98, p = 0.033). Subgroup analyses did not demonstrate statistically significant interaction effects for any subgroup. No suspected program-related adverse events were identified.
The HQP model of community-based nurse care management appeared to reduce all-cause mortality in chronically ill older adults. Limitations of the study are that few low-income and non-white individuals were enrolled and implementation was in a single geographic region of the US. Additional research to confirm these findings and determine the model's scalability and generalizability is warranted.
Trial Registration NCT01071967
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In almost every country in the world, the proportion of people aged over 60 years is growing faster than any other age group because of increased life expectancy. This demographic change has several implications for public health, especially as older age is a risk factor for many chronic diseases—diseases of long duration and generally slow progression. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, are by far the leading cause of death in the world, representing almost two-thirds of all deaths. Therefore in most countries, the challenge of managing increasingly ageing populations who have chronic illnesses demands an urgent response and countries such as the United States are actively researching possible solutions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some studies suggest that innovations in chronic disease management that are led by nurses may help address the epidemic of chronic diseases by increasing the quality and reducing the cost of care. However, to date, reports of the evaluation of such interventions lack rigor and do not provide evidence of improved long-term health outcomes or reduced health care costs. So in this study, the researchers used the gold standard of research, a randomized controlled trial, to examine the impact of a community-based nurse care management model for older adults with chronic illnesses in the United States as part of a series of studies supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited eligible patients aged 65 years and over with heart failure, coronary heart disease, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and/or hyperlipidemia who received traditional Medicare—a fee for service insurance scheme in which beneficiaries can choose to receive their care from any Medicare provider—from participating primary care practices in Pennsylvania. The researchers then categorized patients according to their risk on the basis of several factors including the number of chronic diseases each individual had before randomizing patients to receive usual care or the nurse-led intervention. The intervention included an individualized plan comprising education, symptom monitoring, medication, counseling for adherence, help identifying, arranging, and monitoring community health and social service referrals in addition to group interventions such as weight loss maintenance and exercise classes. The researchers checked whether any participating patients had died by using the online Social Security Death Master File. Then the researchers used a statistical model to calculate the risk of death in both groups.
Of the 1,736 patients the researchers recruited into the trial, 873 were randomized to receive the intervention and 863 were in the control group (usual care). The researchers found that 86 (9.9%) participants in the intervention group and 111 (12.9%) participants in the control group died during the study period, representing a 25% lower relative risk of death among the intervention group. However, when the researchers considered other factors, such as sex, age group, primary diagnosis, perceived health, number of medications taken, hospital stays in the past 6 months, and tobacco use in their statistical model, this risk was slightly altered—0.73 risk of death in the intervention group.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that that community-based nurse care management is associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality among older adults with chronic illnesses who are beneficiaries of the fee for service Medicare scheme in the United States. These findings also support the important role of nurses in improving health outcomes in this group of patients and show the feasibility of implementing this program in collaboration with primary care practices. Future research is needed to test the adaptability, scalability, and generalizability of this model of care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Arlene Bierman
Information about the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is available
The World Health Organization provides statistics on the prevalence of both chronic illness and ageing
Heath Quality Partners provide information about the study
PMCID: PMC3398966  PMID: 22815653
18.  Interrelation of preventive care benefits and shared costs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) 
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), access to insurance and coverage of preventive care services has been expanded. By removing the barrier of shared costs for preventive care, it is expected that an increase in utilization of preventive care services will reduce the cost of chronic diseases. Early detection and treatment is anticipated to be less costly than treatment at full onset of chronic conditions. One concern of early detection of disease is the cost to treat. In reality, the confluence of early detection may result in greater overall expenditures. Even with improved access to preventive care benefits, cost-sharing of other health services remains a major component of insurance plans. In order to treat identified conditions or diseases, cost-sharing comes into play. With the greater adoption of cost-sharing insurance plans, expenditures on the part of enrollee are anticipated to rise. Once the healthcare recipients realize the implication of early identification and resultant treatment costs, enrollment in preventive care may decline. Healthcare legislation and regulation should consider the full spectrum of care and the microeconomic costs associated with preventive treatment. Although the system at large may not realize the immediate impact, behavioral shifts on the part of healthcare consumers may alter healthcare. Rather than the current status quo of treating presenting conditions, preventive treatment is largely anticipated to require more resources and may impact the consumer’s financial capacity. This report will explore how these two concepts are co-dependent, and highlight the need for continued reform.
PMCID: PMC4154552  PMID: 25197679
Preventive Care; Affordable Care Act (ACA); Shared Costs; Cost Management; Insurance Accessibility
19.  The Effect of Changing Patterns of Obstetric Care in Scotland (1980–2004) on Rates of Preterm Birth and Its Neonatal Consequences: Perinatal Database Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000153.
Jane Norman and colleagues analyzed linked perinatal surveillance data in Scotland and find that between 1980 and 2004 increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births contributed equally to the rising rate of preterm births.
Rates of preterm birth are rising worldwide. Studies from the United States and Latin America suggest that much of this rise relates to increased rates of medically indicated preterm birth. In contrast, European and Australian data suggest that increases in spontaneous preterm labour also play a role. We aimed, in a population-based database of 5 million people, to determine the temporal trends and obstetric antecedents of singleton preterm birth and its associated neonatal mortality and morbidity for the period 1980–2004.
Methods and Findings
There were 1.49 million births in Scotland over the study period, of which 5.8% were preterm. We found a percentage increase in crude rates of both spontaneous preterm birth per 1,000 singleton births (10.7%, p<0.01) and medically indicated preterm births (41.2%, p<0.01), which persisted when adjusted for maternal age at delivery. The greater proportion of spontaneous preterm births meant that the absolute increase in rates of preterm birth in each category were similar. Of specific maternal complications, essential and pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and placenta praevia played a decreasing role in preterm birth over the study period, with gestational and pre-existing diabetes playing an increasing role. There was a decline in stillbirth, neonatal, and extended perinatal mortality associated with preterm birth at all gestation over the study period but an increase in the rate of prolonged hospital stay for the neonate. Neonatal mortality improved in all subgroups, regardless of obstetric antecedent of preterm birth or gestational age. In the 28 wk and greater gestational groups we found a reduction in stillbirths and extended perinatal mortality for medically induced but not spontaneous preterm births (in the absence of maternal complications) although at the expense of a longer stay in neonatal intensive care. This improvement in stillbirth and neonatal mortality supports the decision making behind the 34% increase in elective/induced preterm birth in these women. Although improvements in neonatal outcomes overall are welcome, preterm birth still accounts for over 66% of singleton stillbirths, 65% of singleton neonatal deaths, and 67% of infants whose stay in the neonatal unit is “prolonged,” suggesting this condition remains a significant contributor to perinatal mortality and morbidity.
In our population, increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births have made equal contributions to the rising rate of preterm birth. Despite improvements in related perinatal mortality, preterm birth remains a major obstetric and neonatal problem, and its frequency is increasing.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks but increasing numbers of babies are being born preterm, before they reach 37 weeks of gestation (gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother). Nowadays in the US, for example, more than half a million babies arrive earlier than expected every year (1 in 8 babies). Although improvements in the care of newborn babies (neonatal care) mean that preterm babies are more likely to survive than in the past, preterm birth remains the single biggest cause of infant death in many developed countries, and many preterm babies who survive have long-term health problems and disabilities, particularly those born before 32 weeks of gestation. Preterm births can be spontaneous or medically induced. At present, it impossible to predict which mothers will spontaneously deliver early and there is no effective way to prevent these preterm births; medically induced early labor is undertaken when either the unborn baby or mother would be at risk if the pregnancy continued to full term.
Why Was This Study Done?
Preterm birth rates need to be reduced, but before this can be done it is important to know how the causes of preterm birth, the numbers of preterm stillbirths, and the numbers of preterm babies who die at birth (neonatal deaths) or soon after (perinatal deaths) are changing with time. If, for example, the rise in preterm births is mainly due to an increase in medically induced labor and if this change in practice has reduced neonatal deaths, it would be unwise to try to reduce the preterm birth rate by discouraging medically induced preterm births. So far, data from the US and Latin America suggest that the increase in preterm births in these countries is solely due to increased rates of medically induced preterm births. However, in Europe and Australia, the rate of spontaneous preterm births also seems to be increasing. In this study, the researchers examine the trends over time and causes of preterm birth and of neonatal death and illness in Scotland over a 25-year period.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By searching a Scottish database of linked maternity records and infant health and death records, the researchers identified 1.49 million singleton births that occurred between 1980 and 2004 of which nearly 90,000 were preterm births. Over the study period, the rates of spontaneous and of medically induced preterm births per 1,000 births increased by 10.7% and 41.2%, respectively, but because there were more spontaneous preterm births than medically induced preterm births, the absolute increase in the rates of each type of birth was similar. Several maternal complications including preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure) and placenta previa (covering of the opening of the cervix by the placenta) played a decreasing role in preterm births over the study period, whereas gestational and preexisting diabetes played an increasing role. Finally, there was a decline in stillbirths and in neonatal and perinatal deaths among preterm babies, although more babies remained in the hospital longer than 7 days after birth. More specifically, after 28 weeks of gestation, stillbirths and perinatal deaths decreased among medically induced preterm births but not among spontaneous preterm births.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that in Scotland between 1980 and 2004, increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births contributed equally to the rising rate of preterm births. Importantly, they also show that the increase in induced preterm births helped to reduce stillbirths and neonatal and perinatal deaths, a finding that supports the criteria that clinicians currently use to decide whether to induce an early birth. Nevertheless, preterm births still account for two-thirds of all stillbirths, neonatal deaths, and extended neonatal stays in hospital and thus cause considerable suffering and greatly increase the workload in neonatal units. The rates of such births consequently need to be reduced and, for Scotland at least, ways will have to be found to reduce the rates of both spontaneous and induced preterm births to achieve this goal while continuing to identify those sick babies who need to be delivered early to give them the best chance of survival.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Tommys is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on maternal and infant health (in English and Spanish)
The US National Women's Health Information Center has detailed information about pregnancy, including a section on pregnancy complications
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies and to information on pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2740823  PMID: 19771156
20.  The old care paradigm is dead, long live the new sustainable care paradigm: how can GP commissioning consortia meet the demand challenges of 21st century healthcare? 
Key messages
The NHS faces significant challenges in managing demand for health services that will not be met using current models of care.A paradigm shift in models of care is needed away from a curative, acute-centric approach to a preventative, primary-care-focused approach.Sustainable development principles can support this transformational change and ensure a whole-systems approach is taken to delivering care.GP commissioning consortia should build sustainability principles into their governance and contracting processes.
Why this matters to me
I feel the health system has not grasped the full implications of the demand challenges and external risks facing the system in this century and the fundamental shift in the model of care required. In healthcare we are extremely good at responding to immediate crises and emergencies, capable of banding together to do some remarkable things in the face of adversity. However, with longer term strategic issues and risks, issues like climate change that my boss David Pencheon would term ‘slow burn emergencies’, we often seem to lack the strategic will to take decisive action despite the strength of the evidence base that shows our approach is untenable in the longer term.
I recently got married (October 2010) and this coincided with my first anniversary of starting at the NHS Sustainable Development Unit. This coupled with the huge NHS change programme has led me to reflect a great deal about the future and in particular how we can ensure that the values of the health system continue to endure. Before starting at the NHS Sustainable Development Unit I thought that sustainability was about turning lights off, driving the car less and turning the heating down – and actually this is an important aspect of environmental sustainability at a micro-level. However, I have subsequently learnt that at a macro-level sustainability is a philosophy, or a way of doing things at a whole-systems level to drive efficiency, contain costs, continually improve and ensure system resilience through balancing competing demands of the ‘here and now’ and the future.
There are many challenges facing the health system in the 21st century – the majority of which are related to managing demand for health services. To meet these challenges emerging GP commissioning consortia will need to take a new approach to commissioning health services – an approach that moves beyond the current acute-centred curative paradigm of care to a new sustainable paradigm of care that focuses on primary care, integrated services and upstream prevention to manage demand. A key part of this shift is the recognition that the health system does not operate in a vacuum and that strategic commissioning decisions must take account of wider determinants of health and well-being, and operate within the finite limits of the planet's natural resources. The sustainable development principle of balancing financial, social and environmental considerations is crucial in managing demand for health services and ensuring that the health system is resilient to risks of resource uncertainty and a changing climate. Building sustainability into the governance and contracting processes of GP commissioning consortia will help deliver efficiency savings, impact on system productivity, manage system risk and help manage demand through the health co-benefits of taking a whole systems approach to commissioning decisions. Commissioning services from providers committed to corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices allows us to move beyond a health system that cures people reactively to one in which the health of individuals and populations is managed proactively through prevention and education. The opportunity to build sustainability principles into the culture of GP commissioning consortia upfront should be seized now to ensure the new model of commissioning endures and is fit for the future.
PMCID: PMC3960677  PMID: 25949650
carbon footprint; conservation of energy resources; greenhouse effect; general practice; holistic health
21.  Costs and Consequences of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Recommendations for Opt-Out HIV Testing 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e194.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended opt-out HIV testing (testing without the need for risk assessment and counseling) in all health care encounters in the US for persons 13–64 years old. However, the overall costs and consequences of these recommendations have not been estimated before. In this paper, I estimate the costs and public health impact of opt-out HIV testing relative to testing accompanied by client-centered counseling, and relative to a more targeted counseling and testing strategy.
Methods and Findings
Basic methods of scenario and cost-effectiveness analysis were used, from a payer's perspective over a one-year time horizon. I found that for the same programmatic cost of US$864,207,288, targeted counseling and testing services (at a 1% HIV seropositivity rate) would be preferred to opt-out testing: targeted services would newly diagnose more HIV infections (188,170 versus 56,940), prevent more HIV infections (14,553 versus 3,644), and do so at a lower gross cost per infection averted (US$59,383 versus US$237,149). While the study is limited by uncertainty in some input parameter values, the findings were robust across a variety of assumptions about these parameter values (including the estimated HIV seropositivity rate in the targeted counseling and testing scenario).
While opt-out testing may be able to newly diagnose over 56,000 persons living with HIV in one year, abandoning client-centered counseling has real public health consequences in terms of HIV infections that could have been averted. Further, my analyses indicate that even when HIV seropositivity rates are as low as 0.3%, targeted counseling and testing performs better than opt-out testing on several key outcome variables. These analytic findings should be kept in mind as HIV counseling and testing policies are debated in the US.
Scenario and cost-effectiveness analyses found that for the same programmatic cost, targeted counseling and testing would diagnose more people living with HIV and prevent more HIV infections than opt-out testing.
Editors' Summary
About a quarter of a million people in the United States do not realize they are infected with HIV. Because they are unaware of their infection, they don't get the medicines they need to stay healthy, and they may also be transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, to others unwittingly. How can public health professionals best reach such people to offer them an HIV test? There are a number of different schools of thought, the two most common of which are studied in this paper.
The first is that the best way to reach them is by simply offering every single patient in every health care setting an HIV test, but giving them the option to decline. This approach is known as “opt-out testing” (because everyone gets tested unless they choose to opt out); it has recently been recommended by the leading US government agency responsible for promoting the US public's health, an agency called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC says that there is no need for patients to give specific written permission for the HIV test to be done and that there is no need for health professionals to offer counseling of what the consequences of a positive test might mean for them before the test.
The second school of thought is that public health professionals should instead target their efforts towards those who are at increased risk of being HIV positive, such as those who inject drugs or who have had high-risk sex. Persons at risk of infection or transmission are offered counseling before the test, to assess their actual risk of HIV and to discuss what would happen in the event that the HIV test comes back positive. During counseling, people are also given advice on steps they can take to stay HIV negative if their test comes back negative, and to prevent infecting others if their test comes back positive. This approach to HIV testing is called “targeted counseling and testing.” While targeting can be done according to levels of risk behavior, counseling and testing services can also be targeted by focusing on geographic areas (e.g., cities) with high levels of HIV infection, or focusing on different types of clinics that serve persons at high risk of HIV infection and/or with little routine access to health care (such as sexually transmitted disease or drug treatment clinics, emergency rooms, or medical clinics in prison settings).
Why Was This Study Done?
The researcher, David Holtgrave, wanted to know which of these two different approaches would be better at reaching people with undiagnosed HIV infection over the course of a one-year period. He also wanted to know the costs of each approach, and which might be better at curbing the spread of HIV.
What Did the Researcher Do and Find?
He used two research techniques. One is called “scenario analysis,” which involves trying to forecast the consequences of several different possible scenarios. The other is called “cost-effectiveness analysis,” which involves comparing the costs and effects of two or more different courses of action.
According to Dr. Holtgrave's analysis, opt-out testing might reach 23% of those people who are currently unaware that they are HIV positive. The program might also prevent 9% of the 40,000 new HIV infections that occur each year in the US. The cost of averting one new infection would be US$237,149. In contrast, targeted counseling and testing might identify about 75% of people in the US now unaware they are living with HIV infection, and prevent about 36% of the new HIV infections. The cost of averting one new infection would be US$59,383. Even when the author changed several assumptions in his analysis (e.g., assumptions about levels of HIV infection or the effectiveness of counseling), he found that targeted counseling and testing still performed better (so the results are “robust” across a variety of such assumptions).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that targeted counseling and testing would be better than opt-out testing for reaching people with undiagnosed HIV infection and for helping to stop the spread of the virus. Opt-out testing, says the author, might even make some people increase their risky behavior. For example, if someone is injecting drugs, is given an opt-out HIV test, but is never questioned about substance use or counseled, and gets an HIV-negative result, they could easily conclude that their drug injecting is not putting them at risk of becoming HIV positive.
However, it is important to note that this study has a major limitation in that it tried to predict what might happen in the future—it did not study the actual impact of the two different types of testing on a group of people. Studies such as this one, which try to predict the future, are always based on a number of assumptions and these assumptions may turn out not to be true. So we should always be cautious in interpreting the results of a “scenario analysis.” In addition, because of the assumptions made in this study, these results are only directly applicable to the US population and hence the implications for other countries are not clear.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
In a related Perspective on this article, Ronald Valdiserri discusses the public health implications of the study
The CDC has a Web site with information on national HIV testing resources
In addition, the CDC has published its “Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Health-Care Settings,” which lay out its proposal for opt-out testing
The international AIDS charity AVERT has a comprehensive page on HIV testing, including information on the reasons to have a test and what the test involves
Johns Hopkins University is host to a site that provides extensive information on HIV care and treatment
The University of California at San Francisco maintains HIV InSite, an authoritative Web site covering topics such as HIV prevention, care, and policy
PMCID: PMC1891318  PMID: 17564488
22.  Portable Bladder Ultrasound 
Executive Summary
The aim of this review was to assess the clinical utility of portable bladder ultrasound.
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Data from the National Population Health Survey indicate prevalence rates of urinary incontinence are 2.5% in women and 1.4 % in men in the general population. Prevalence of urinary incontinence is higher in women than men and prevalence increases with age.
Identified risk factors for urinary incontinence include female gender, increasing age, urinary tract infections (UTI), poor mobility, dementia, smoking, obesity, consuming alcohol and caffeine beverages, physical activity, pregnancy, childbirth, forceps and vacuum-assisted births, episiotomy, abdominal resection for colorectal cancer, and hormone replacement therapy.
For the purposes of this review, incontinence populations will be stratified into the following; the elderly, urology patients, postoperative patients, rehabilitation settings, and neurogenic bladder populations.
Urinary incontinence is defined as any involuntary leakage of urine. Incontinence can be classified into diagnostic clinical types that are useful in planning evaluation and treatment. The major types of incontinence are stress (physical exertion), urge (overactive bladder), mixed (combined urge and stress urinary incontinence), reflex (neurological impairment of the central nervous system), overflow (leakage due to full bladder), continuous (urinary tract abnormalities), congenital incontinence, and transient incontinence (temporary incontinence).
Postvoid residual (PVR) urine volume, which is the amount of urine in the bladder immediately after urination, represents an important component in continence assessment and bladder management to provide quantitative feedback to the patient and continence care team regarding the effectiveness of the voiding technique. Although there is no standardized definition of normal PVR urine volume, measurements greater than 100 mL to 150 mL are considered an indication for urinary retention, requiring intermittent catheterization, whereas a PVR urine volume of 100 mL to 150 mL or less is generally considered an acceptable result of bladder training.
Urinary retention has been associated with poor outcomes including UTI, bladder overdistension, and higher hospital mortality rates. The standard method of determining PVR urine volumes is intermittent catheterization, which is associated with increased risk of UTI, urethral trauma and discomfort.
The Technology Being Reviewed
Portable bladder ultrasound products are transportable ultrasound devices that use automated technology to register bladder volume digitally, including PVR volume, and provide three-dimensional images of the bladder. The main clinical use of portable bladder ultrasound is as a diagnostic aid. Health care professionals (primarily nurses) administer the device to measure PVR volume and prevent unnecessary catheterization. An adjunctive use of the bladder ultrasound device is to visualize the placement and removal of catheters. Also, portable bladder ultrasound products may improve the diagnosis and differentiation of urological problems and their management and treatment, including the establishment of voiding schedules, study of bladder biofeedback, fewer UTIs, and monitoring of potential urinary incontinence after surgery or trauma.
Review Strategy
To determine the effectiveness and clinical utility of portable bladder ultrasound as reported in the published literature, the Medical Advisory Secretariat used its standard search strategy to retrieve international health technology assessments and English-language journal articles from selected databases. Nonsystematic reviews, nonhuman studies, case reports, letters, editorials, and comments were excluded.
Summary of Findings
Of the 4 included studies that examined the clinical utility of portable bladder ultrasound in the elderly population, all found the device to be acceptable. One study reported that the device underestimated catheterized bladder volume
In patients with urology problems, 2 of the 3 studies concerning portable bladder ultrasound found the device acceptable to use. However, one study did not find the device as accurate for small PVR volume as for catheterization and another found that the device overestimated catheterized bladder volume. In the remaining study, the authors reported that when the device’s hand-held ultrasound transducers (scanheads) were aimed improperly, bladders were missed, or lateral borders of bladders were missed resulting in partial bladder volume measurements and underestimation of PVR measurements. They concluded that caution should be used in interpreting PVR volume measured by portable bladder ultrasound machines and that catheterization may be the preferred assessment modality if an accurate PVR measurement is necessary.
All 3 studies with post-operative populations found portable bladder ultrasound use to be reasonably acceptable. Two studies reported that the device overestimated catheter-derived bladder volumes, one by 7% and the other by 21 mL. The third study reported the opposite, that the device underestimated catheter bladder volume by 39 mL but that the results remained acceptable
In rehabilitation settings, 2 studies found portable bladder ultrasound to underestimate catheter-derived bladder volumes; yet, both authors concluded that the mean errors were within acceptable limits.
In patients with neurogenic bladder problems, 2 studies found portable bladder ultrasound to be an acceptable alternative to catheterization despite the fact that it was not as accurate as catheterization for obtaining bladder volumes.
Lastly, examinations concerning avoidance of negative health outcomes showed that, after use of the portable bladder ultrasound, unnecessary catheterizations and UTIs were decreased. Unnecessary catheterizations avoided ranged from 16% to 47% in the selected articles. Reductions in UTI ranged from 38% to 72%.
In sum, all but one study advocated the use of portable bladder ultrasound as an alternative to catheterization.
Economic Analysis
An economic analysis estimating the budget-impact of BladderScan in complex continuing care facilities was completed. The analysis results indicated a $192,499 (Cdn) cost-savings per year per facility and a cost-savings of $2,887,485 (Cdn) for all 15 CCC facilities. No economic analysis was completed for long-term care and acute care facilities due to lack of data.
Considerations for Policy Development
Rapid diffusion of portable bladder ultrasound technology is expected. Recently, the IC5 project on improving continence care in Ontario’s complex continuing care centres piloted portable bladder ultrasound at 12 sites. Preliminary results were promising.
Many physicians and health care facilities already have portable bladder ultrasound devices. However, portable bladder ultrasound devices for PVR measurement are not in use at most health care facilities in Ontario and Canada. The Verathon Corporation (Bothell, Wisconsin, United States), which patents BladderScan, is the sole licensed manufacturer of the portable bladder ultrasound in Canada. Field monopoly may influence the rising costs of portable bladder ultrasound, particularly when faced with rapid expansion of the technology.
Several thousand residents of Ontario would benefit from portable bladder ultrasound. The number of residents of Ontario that would benefit from the technology is difficult to quantify, because the incidence and prevalence of incontinence are grossly under-reported. However, long-term care and complex continuing care institutions would benefit greatly from portable bladder ultrasound, as would numerous rehabilitation units, postsurgical care units, and urology clinics.
The cost of the portable bladder ultrasound devices ranges from $17,698.90 to $19,565.95 (Cdn) (total purchase price per unit as quoted by the manufacturer). Additional training packages, batteries and battery chargers, software, gel pads, and yearly warranties are additional costs. Studies indicate that portable bladder ultrasound is a cost-effective technology, because it avoids costs associated with catheterization equipment, saves nursing time, and reduces catheter-related complications and UTIs.
The use of portable bladder ultrasound device will affect the patient directly in terms of health outcomes. Its use avoids the trauma related to the urinary tract that catheterization inflicts, and does not result in UTIs. In addition, patients prefer it, because it preserves dignity and reduces discomfort.
PMCID: PMC3379524  PMID: 23074481
23.  Survivorship care plans: a work in progress 
Current Oncology  2014;21(3):e466-e479.
Health agencies across the world have echoed the recommendation of the U.S. Institute of Medicine (iom) that survivorship care plans (scps) should be provided to patients upon completion of treatment. To date, reviews of scps have been limited to the United States. The present review offers an expanded scope and describes how scps are being designed, delivered, and evaluated in various countries.
We collected scps from Canada, the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. We selected for analysis the scps for which we could obtain the actual scp, information about the delivery approach, and evaluation data. We conducted a content analysis and compared the scps with the iom guidelines.
Of 47 scps initially identified, 16 were analyzed. The scps incorporated several of the iom’s guidelines, but many did not include psychosocial services, identification of a key point of contact, genetic testing, and financial concerns. The model of delivery instituted by the U.K. National Cancer Survivorship Initiative stands out because of its unique approach that initiates care planning at diagnosis and stratifies patients into a follow-up program based on self-management capacities.
There is considerable variation in the approach to delivery and the extent to which scps follow the original recommendations from the iom. We discuss the implications of this review for future care-planning programs and prospective research. A holistic approach to care that goes beyond the iom recommendations and that incorporates care planning from the point of diagnosis to beyond completion of treatment might improve people’s experience of cancer care.
PMCID: PMC4059811  PMID: 24940107
Supportive care; survivorship care plans; survivorship
24.  Comparing Pharmacy Benefit Managers: Moving Well Beyond the Simple Spreadsheet Analysis 
Unabated increases in prescription drug demands, advancing technology, and rising drug inflation rates combined with a sagging economy, continue to intensify budget pressures for payors responsible for delivering pharmacy benefits to plan members. At the same time, high levels of complexity and resource requirements in drug benefit administration have led to a state in which plan sponsors remain heavily dependent on pharmacy benefit managers to assist in these efforts. With pharmacy representing such a critical component of healthcare delivery from clinical and economic perspectives, it is essential that sponsors exercise high levels of due diligence in pharmacy benefit manager review and appraisal to ensure proper balance of quality clinical care, sufficient access, and optimal cost-efficiency in the delivery of such benefits. This review is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of current pharmacy benefit management business practices and help equip plan sponsors with the knowledge, strategies, and safeguards to drive a well-informed pharmacy benefit selection process and, inevitably, a better-aligned pharmacy benefit management–payor relationship.
PMCID: PMC4115299  PMID: 25126235
25.  Treatment Outcomes and Cost-Effectiveness of Shifting Management of Stable ART Patients to Nurses in South Africa: An Observational Cohort 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(7):e1001055.
Lawrence Long and colleagues report that “down-referring” stable HIV patients from a doctor-managed, hospital-based ART clinic to a nurse-managed primary health facility provides good health outcomes and cost-effective treatment for patients.
To address human resource and infrastructure shortages, resource-constrained countries are being encouraged to shift HIV care to lesser trained care providers and lower level health care facilities. This study evaluated the cost-effectiveness of down-referring stable antiretroviral therapy (ART) patients from a doctor-managed, hospital-based ART clinic to a nurse-managed primary health care facility in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Methods and Findings
Criteria for down-referral were stable ART (≥11 mo), undetectable viral load within the previous 10 mo, CD4>200 cells/mm3, <5% weight loss over the last three visits, and no opportunistic infections. All patients down-referred from the treatment-initiation site to the down-referral site between 1 February 2008 and 1 January 2009 were compared to a matched sample of patients eligible for down-referral but not down-referred. Outcomes were assigned based on vital and health status 12 mo after down-referral eligibility and the average cost per outcome estimated from patient medical record data.
The down-referral site (n = 712) experienced less death and loss to follow up than the treatment-initiation site (n = 2,136) (1.7% versus 6.2%, relative risk = 0.27, 95% CI 0.15–0.49). The average cost per patient-year for those in care and responding at 12 mo was US$492 for down-referred patients and US$551 for patients remaining at the treatment-initiation site (p<0.0001), a savings of 11%. Down-referral was the cost-effective strategy for eligible patients.
Twelve-month outcomes of stable ART patients who are down-referred to a primary health clinic are as good as, or better than, the outcomes of similar patients who are maintained at a hospital-based ART clinic. The cost of treatment with down-referral is lower across all outcomes and would save 11% for patients who remain in care and respond to treatment. These results suggest that this strategy would increase treatment capacity and conserve resources without compromising patient outcomes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since 1981, and about 33 million people are now infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Because HIV destroys immune system cells, which leaves infected individuals susceptible to other infections, early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within ten years of infection. Then, in 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART), which can keep HIV in check for many years, became available. For people living in developed countries, HIV infection became a chronic condition, but people in developing countries were not so lucky—ART was prohibitively expensive and so a diagnosis of HIV infection remained a death sentence in many regions of the world. In 2003, this situation was declared a global health emergency, and governments, international agencies, and funding bodies began to implement plans to increase ART coverage in developing countries. As a result, nowadays, more than a third of people in low- and middle-income countries who need ART are receiving it.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, shortages of human resources in developing countries are impeding progress toward universal ART coverage. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where two-thirds of all HIV-positive people live, there are too few doctors to supervise all the ART that is required. Various organizations are therefore encouraging a shift of clinical care responsibilities for people receiving ART from doctors to less highly trained, less expensive, and more numerous members of the clinical workforce. Thus, in South Africa, plans are underway to reduce the role of hospital doctors in ART and to increase the role of primary health clinic nurses. One specific strategy involves “down-referring” patients whose HIV infection is under control (“stable ART patients”) from a doctor-managed, hospital-based ART clinic to a nurse-managed primary health care facility. In this observational study, the researchers investigate the effect of this strategy on treatment outcomes and costs by retrospectively analyzing data collected from a cohort (group) of adult patients initially treated by doctors at the Themba Lethu Clinic in Johannesburg and then down-referred to a nearby primary health clinic where nurses supervised their treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Patients attending the hospital-based ART clinic were invited to transfer to the down-referral site if they had been on ART for at least 11 months and met criteria that indicated that ART was controlling their HIV infection. Each of the 712 stable ART patients who agreed to be down-referred to the primary health clinic was matched to three patients eligible for down-referral but not down-referred (2,136 patients), and clinical outcomes and costs in the patient groups were compared 12 months after down-referral eligibility. At this time point, 1.7% of the down-referred patients had died or had been lost to follow up compared to 6.2% of the patients who continued to receive hospital-based ART. The average cost per patient-year for those in care and responding at 12 months was US$492 for down-referred patients but US$551 for patients remaining at the hospital. Finally, the down-referral site spent US$509 to produce a patient who was in care and responding one year after down-referral on average, whereas the hospital spent US$602 for each responding patient. Thus, the down-referral strategy (nurse-managed care) was more cost-effective than continued hospital treatment (doctor-managed care).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, at least for this pair of study sites, the 12-month outcomes of stable ART patients who were down-referred to a primary health clinic were as good as or better than the outcomes of similar patients who remained at a hospital-based ART clinic. Moreover, the down-referral strategy saved 11% of costs for patients who remained in care and responded to treatment and appeared to be cost-effective, although additional studies are needed to confirm this last finding. Because this is an observational study (that is, patients eligible for down-referral were not randomly assigned to hospital or primary care facility treatment), it is possible that some unknown factor was responsible for the difference in outcomes between the two patient groups. Nevertheless, these results suggest that the down-referral strategy tested in this study could increase ART capacity and conserve resources without compromising patient outcomes in South Africa and possibly in other resource-limited settings.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Ford and Mills
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on universal access to AIDS treatment (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment, including its 2010 progress report (in English, French and Spanish)
Right to Care, a non-profit organization that aims to deliver and support quality clinical services in Southern Africa for the prevention, treatment, and management of HIV, provides information on down-referral
PMCID: PMC3139666  PMID: 21811402

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