Thursday, August 6, 2009

Medical Cost-Savings from Counseling

Medical insurance is increasingly being priced out of what many feel they can afford. It can be argued that ever increasing health insurance costs have largely decimated the US car manufacturers.

What if there was a way to save 20% of medical costs? What if I told you that is such a way? It has been reported that when numerous rigorous studies were examined on medical cost savings after psychotherapy, that the average savings was about 20%! Some studies have shown higher.

Many will be surprised to learn that psychologist Nicholas Cummings, PhD first wrote about this in 1962! One of the first studies to look at these issues was conducted in the 1960s at Kaiser. Records were followed over a 5 year span for 152 patients who had received psychotherapy. Of those, 80 were seen for only one session. A control group (No therapy) was matched for age. Over the five years, the medical utilization of the control group increased. Utilization decreased for those who had received therapy. Hospitalization rates fell from 5 days/year prior to the study to .7 days/year.

Studies range from studying groups with no common diagnoses to groups of distinct diagnoses. While some studies looked at single issues, such as depression, panic attacks, etc, many of the studies looked at people with all kinds of medical problems, such as hypertension, other cardiac difficulties, chronic pain, cancer, etc. In addition to looking at those who received individual therapy, other studies looked at marital therapy as an adjunct to alcohol treatment, brief intensive in-home family therapy for children and adolescents with severe behavioral issues, and group therapy.

Another review of studies showed that 85% of 58 studies showed a decrease in medical utilization after psychotherapy.

There is momentum where health care reform will soon be attempted. It is past time for the public to learn that psychological interventions often decrease and sometimes eliminate the need for medical interventions. There needs to be a greater education of this information.

If you are interested in learning more about these issues, an excellent read is The Impact of Medical Cost Offset on Practice and Research: Making It Work for You (2002) edited by Nicholas Cummings, et. al.

Best wishes,

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