Multiple Chronic Conditions

Topic Spotlight

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Americans have multiple chronic conditions (Centers for Disease Control)


of all healthcare spending in the United States goes toward treating people who have more than one chronic condition

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Older adults have multiple chronic conditions

Study Results that Support Better-Informed Decisions

Comparing Ways to Treat Back Pain Using a Stratified Risk Approach

PCORI-funded study aimed to test whether a risk-stratified approach to treatment in primary care settings would result in lower rates of patients with acute back pain developing chronic back pain. To assess chronic pain risk, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh asked patients questions about how they were coping with back pain and assigned them to either low-, medium-, or high-risk groups. Patients who scored high risk were placed into two groups: usual care or usual care plus psychologically informed physical therapy, which also teaches patients coping skills to manage back pain. As reported in EClinical Medicine, among patients at high risk, 50 percent developed chronic back pain regardless of type of care, while 20 percent of low-risk and 33 percent of medium-risk patients developed chronic low back pain.

Patient Portals Can Boost Office Visits, Cut ER Use

Access to a patient portal can increase engagement in outpatient visits by patients with diabetes and those with multiple complex chronic conditions, according to a PCORI-funded study spotlighted in PLOS One. The study showed that portal use was associated with significantly fewer emergency room visits and preventable hospital stays for patients with multiple complex conditions. By increasing patient office visits, a portal could potentially help clinicians address unmet clinical needs and reduce health events that lead to emergency and hospital care. The observational study compared visit rates for 165,000 patients with and without portal access in a large healthcare system.

Long- and Short-Term Smoking Cessation Interventions Show Similar Results

Among smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the number who quit after receiving 23 months of nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) and six counseling sessions was nearly the same as the number who quit after receiving 10 weeks of NRT and four counseling sessions, according to findings of a PCORI-funded study published in JAMA Network Open. While there were insignificant differences in the number of cigarettes smoked per day between the groups, both saw decreases in exposure to unhealthy chemicals and adverse cardiac events. The study followed nearly 400 adults.

Multiple Chronic Conditions Study Spotlights

Care Coordination for Older Adults with Multiple Conditions

It can be effective to have a nurse or social worker coordinate the care across multiple healthcare providers for people with multiple chronic conditions. But case management is resource-intensive. Clinicians and others would like to know which elements are most vital or which patients are most likely to benefit. This study is comparing case management of older patients with multiple chronic conditions with standard care of similar patients to answer these questions.

Comparing Ways to Reduce High Blood Pressure

This study is comparing two ways to treat high blood pressure. One focuses on improving how clinic staff measure and track patients’ blood pressure. The other method connects patients to community health workers, who come to their homes and help address factors that might make their blood pressure hard to control. In this method, if patients’ blood pressure still doesn’t improve, they get additional care from specialists.

Trained Community Members May Provide a Key Link between Clinicians and Patients

Community health workers can lower barriers to receiving care and managing health for low-income patients with more than one chronic condition. This project is testing whether goal setting plus support from a community health worker compared with goal setting alone better helps patients reach their disease-management goals, such as feeling better, avoiding hospitalizations, and feeling more in control of their health.