A Population-Based Care Management Lesson: What Telephonic Disease Management Lacks In Individual Effectiveness Is Made Up By Its Greater Reach

Posted by

Jaan Sidorov

Posted 11/17/11 on the Disease Management Care Blog

In yesterday’s post on the role of telephonic disease management for obesity, the Disease Management Care Blog pointed out that POWER was a landmark study that demonstrated that remote lifestyle counseling performed as well as traditional face-to-face counseling.

New England Journal of Medicine editorial accompanying thePOWER article points out that there may have been an additional factor that explained the results: patient attendance at the in-person counseling sessions dropped off precipitously as the trial progressed (an average of only 2 out of 24 scheduled visits after the seventh month), while the telephonic approach achieved 16 out of 18 scheduled contacts.

The DMCB agrees and suggests this is an additional virtue of remote telephonic disease management.  While in-person counseling may have more of an individual impact, it does little good if  patients no-show.  In contrast, “high volume” telephonic counseling may have more of a population-based effect, because a lower intensity intervention has greater absolute impact if it’s delivered to morepersons.

NIH scientist Susan Yanovski’s editorial falls short on capitalizing on that insight.  While it grudgingly points out that POWER shows “PCPs can deliver safe and effective weight-loss interventions in primary care settings,” it neglects to mention the two important implications of POWER:

1) non-physician team members acting in collaboration with PCPs are an important resource in the national battle against obesity and

2) offering a variety of communication channels increases reach and gives more patients new and effective options to access anti-obesity programs.

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