Kaiser Permanente Disease Management Program Increases Access, Value
Kaiser Permanente's "systematic, computer-assisted approach" to managing high cholesterol among its three million northern California members allows the company to "reach more patients" and get "better results for its money," the Wall Street Journal reports. By tracking patients' cholesterol test results, ensuring patients stay up-to-date on tests and checking on prescription refills, pharmacists, nurses and doctors are able to "aggressively" manage patients' health. In addition, Kaiser last year revised its approach to cholesterol treatment by starting "a big majority" of patients on the generic treatment lovastatin instead of the brand-name drugs Mevacor or Zocor. According to the Journal, the switch to generic treatments ensures more of Kaiser's patients can afford the treatment. While the generic drugs do not lower the amount Kaiser spends on cholesterol medications -- its budget for such drugs has risen 20% annually in recent years -- it does allow the HMO to treat more patients.
Kaiser's programs have shown results; after one year of taking a statin, between 60% and 70% of Kaiser members continue taking their medicine, compared to just 30% nationally. Approximately 85% of Kaiser patients have LDL cholesterol levels below 130, compared to just 45% nationwide. In addition, a companion program for heart-failure patients that recommends a drug regimen of a generic beta-blocker and the ACE-inhibitor lisinopril has "sharply reduced" hospital admissions and improved overall heart health among Kaiser patients. According to Dr. Eleanor Levin, the Kaiser cardiologist who developed the cholesterol-management program, the programs are the primary reason that Kaiser's patients are 30% less likely to die from heart disease than other Californians. The Journal reports that many private insurers are already employing similar disease-management strategies, and Medicare recently launched a pilot project for its beneficiaries (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 9/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.