ParkinsonNet: saving costs, saving lives
Barack Obama, the former president of the United States, had a favourite slogan that he used when speaking about an ideal future in the world of healthcare: “saving costs, saving lives.” In an exciting recent publication, we demonstrated that innovative healthcare concepts developed within Radboudumc are supporting moves towards this goal.
The aim of our study was to evaluate the merits of ParkinsonNet, a new and unique model of care worldwide. Its key components are: (a) concentrating care on specifically trained expert professionals (professional empowerment); (b) informing and engaging patients as partners in health-care (patient empowerment); and (c) organising professionals in networks designed to deliver integrated care (team empowerment).
We used an innovative experimental design to test the cost-effectiveness
of this approach by mining the medical claims database of a large Dutch
insurance company. This file contained long-term follow-up data relating to over 4,000 Parkinson’s patients. Half of these patients had received specialised
ParkinsonNet care, while the other half were treated by a generically trained therapist.
Cost reductions and better health care
The results were impressive: care delivery by a specialised
ParkinsonNet therapist was associated with more efficient care delivery, considerably fewer disease complications (including a marked reduction in hip
fractures and other injuries) and considerable cost reductions (with annual savings amounting to around €20-30 million, i.e. 5% of the total Dutch annual expenditure on Parkinson’s care). And, to our surprise, specialised ParkinsonNet care was also associated with a 3% lower risk of mortality. In other words: saving costs and saving lives.
The most promising element here is that, although ParkinsonNet was designed originally for Parkinson’s, this approach is also applicable to many other chronic diseases. The Dutch Ministry of Health supports a plan to establish similar networks for other conditions in the Netherlands. Moreover, there is growing international interest in this approach.
Since 2013, networks have been established in the US (in Rochester in alifornia), Luxemburg and Norway, with active discussions ongoing with experts in many other countries. These international partnerships make it possible to build a global platform for healthcare innovation and research, helping to establish an affordable healthcare system for future generations.