Multiple chronic conditions target of new HHS strategy

The department pushes for more interagency coordination to treat patients with more than one disease.

By Chris Silva — Posted Jan. 10, 2011

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Acknowledging that the U.S. health care system as structured is geared largely toward treating just one disease or condition at a time, the Dept. of Health and Human Services recently announced the creation of a public-private effort to tackle the growing challenge presented by multiple chronic conditions.

More than a quarter of all Americans -- and two out of three older Americans -- have multiple chronic conditions, and treatment for these individuals accounts for 66% of the nation's health care budget, HHS officials said. These figures are only expected to rise as the number of older Americans increases.

The new Strategic Framework on Multiple Chronic Conditions will be coordinated by HHS and involve input from agencies within the department as well as multiple private-sector stakeholders.

Its aim is to foster needed structural change within the system and provide more information and better tools to help physicians as they treat their patients.

"This new framework provides an important road map to help us improve the health status of every American with chronic health conditions," said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH.

Officials stressed the expense that multiple chronic conditions poses to federal entitlement programs.

"Given the number of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions, focusing on the integration and coordination of care for this population is critical to achieve better care and health for beneficiaries, and lower costs through greater efficiency and quality," said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services chief Donald M. Berwick, MD.

CMS has provided guidance to state Medicaid directors on an optional benefit available Jan. 1 under the health system reform law to provide health homes for enrollees with at least two chronic conditions, or for those with one chronic condition who are at risk of developing another.

Other agencies involved in the new framework include the Food and Drug Administration, the Indian Health Service, the National Institutes of Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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