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

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Abstract

Background:

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.

Study:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusions:

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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