Pain and Medical Cost Reduced through Arthritis Course

An analysis shows that the Arthritis Self-Help Course is a cost-saving intervention that further reduces arthritis pain–the leading cause of disability in this country — among persons receiving conventional medical treatment. Yet fewer than 1% of persons with arthritis have taken the course.

The benefits for both patients and health care providers warrant its more widespread use as a normal addition to conventional therapy.

From a societal perspective, participation in the course could reduce pain by 18% and save $320 per person over 4 years. From a health care system perspective, participation could reduce pain by 18% at a cost savings of $267.

Cost savings are mainly due to fewer physician visits. Reduced pain and cost savings appeared early after participation in the course and lasted throughout the 4 years of observation, suggesting that the benefits would persist for additional years and result in additional savings.

The study results suggest that an insurer or health care organization administering the course among 10,000 persons with arthritis could expect to save $2.5 million over 4 years.

The 6-week course (2 hours per week) includes advice about effects and uses of medications, nutrition, patient-doctor communication, appropriate use of injured joints; and design of individual physical activity, relaxation, and pain management programs.

An estimated 42.7 million Americans (>15% of the population) currently have arthritis or another rheumatic condition. This number is expected to increase to 60 million by 2020. About half of Americans 65 years or older have arthritis or another rheumatic condition. Most arthritis (60%) occurs among persons younger than 65.

Direct and indirect costs for arthritis were estimated at $65 billion in 1992 and are likely to continue to rise as baby boomers age.

For more information, contact the Arthritis Foundation

The report was published in “Archives of Internal Medicine,” Vol. 158, June 8, 1998.

Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion <

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