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Chiropractors Serving as Primary Care Providers Decrease Costs - Study Shows

When Chiropractors serve as Primary Providers in health plans, these plans save significant amounts of money. This according to a new study published in the May 2007 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. The study, also reported on in the June 7, 2007 could have profound implications as the US presidential campaigns seem to be dealing more with the issues related to health care and ways to make a system of universal health care affordable.

Researchers compared the costs and clinical utilization of members enrolled in a traditional health maintenance organization (HMO). The researchers reviewed data from those HMO members who had an integrative CAM Independent Physicians Association (IPA) and compared them with members who had a conventional medical IPA. In essence they look at the costs of those programs where the primary care physicians (PCPs) were exclusively doctors of chiropractic. The research, led by Richard Sarnat, MD, not only compared costs but also looked at patient satisfaction.

The results showed that over a seven year period, patients who utilized chiropractors and other CAM-oriented primary care physicians had a 60.2% decrease in-hospital admissions, 59.0% decrease in hospital days, 62.0% less outpatient surgeries and procedures, and an 85% decrease in pharmaceutical costs when compared with the total network HMO utilization rates and costs where medical physicians were the primary physicians.

Coauthor James Winterstein, DC commented on the results by saying, "Our most recent analysis supports earlier findings that patients visiting CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine)-orientated primary care physicians (PCP) -- primarily chiropractors -- experienced fewer hospitalizations, underwent fewer surgeries and used considerably fewer pharmaceuticals than HMO patients who received traditional medical care."

In addition to costs savings those enrollees who utilized chiropractic consistently reported a higher satisfaction rating with their HMO than those who did not have chiropractic. The study showed that the rates of patient satisfaction ranged between 89% and 100% and that patients consistently rated their experiences more positively than did members enrolled within the HMO's offering only conventional medical care.

Dr. Winterstein summed up the results and their impact by stating, "This study confirms that integration of allopathic, chiropractic and other complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers can positively impact patient quality of care while limiting overall costs. This approach to patient care has great potential to improve the U.S. healthcare system."