Telephone Encounters Predict Future High Financial Expenditures in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients: A 3-Year Prospective Observational Study

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Telephone activity is essential in management of complex chronic diseases including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Telephone encounters logged in the electronic medical record have recently been proposed as a surrogate marker of disease activity and impending health care utilization; however, the association between telephone calls and financial expenditures has not been evaluated.


We performed a 3-year prospective observational study of telephone encounters logged at a tertiary referral IBD center. We analyzed patient demographics, disease characteristics, comorbidities, clinical activity, and health care financial charges by telephone encounter frequency.


Eight hundred one patients met inclusion criteria (52.3% female; mean age, 44.1 y), accounted for 12,669 telephone encounters, and accrued $70,513,449 in charges over 3 years. High telephone encounter frequency was associated with female gender (P=0.003), anxiety/depression (P<0.001), and prior IBD surgery (P<0.001). High telephone encounter categories had significantly more hospitalizations (P<0.001), IBD surgery (P<0.001), worse quality of life (P<0.001), more corticosteroid (P<0.001), biological (P<0.001), and opiate prescriptions (P<0.001). High telephone encounter frequency patients amassed higher total available charges in each year (P<0.001) and over the 3 years (P<0.001). Telephone encounters in 2009 (P=0.02) and 2010 (P<0.001) were significantly associated with financial charges the following year after controlling for demographic, utilization, and medication covariates.


Increased telephone encounters are associated with significantly higher health care utilization and financial expenditures. Increased call frequency is predictive of future health care spending. Telephone encounters are a useful tool to identify patients at risk of clinical deterioration and large financial expense.

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