Accrued Cost Savings of a Free Clinic Using Quality-Adjusted Life Years Saved and Return on Investment

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Savings garnered through the provision of preventive services is a form of profit for health systems. Free clinics have been using this logic to demonstrate their cost-savings. The Community-Based Chronic Disease Management (CCDM) clinic treats hypertension using nurse-led teams, clinical protocols, and community-based settings.


We calculated CCDM's cost-effectiveness from 2007 to 2013 using 2 metrics: Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) saved and return on investment (ROI). QALYs were calculated using the Clinical Preventive Burden (CPB) score for hypertension care. ROI was calculated by tallying the savings from prevented heart attacks, strokes, and emergency department visits against the total operating costs.


Using conservative assumptions for cost estimates, hypertension care resulted in a value of QALYs saved of $711,000 to $2,133,000 and an ROI ratio range of 0.35 to 1.20. Our study shows that when using conservative assumptions to calculate cost-savings, our free clinic did not save money. Cost-savings did occur, but the amount was modest, was less than that of cost-inputs, and was not likely captured by any single health entity.


Although free clinics remain a vital health care access point for many Americans, it has yet to be demonstrated that they generate a net savings.

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