Cost Analysis and Clinical Outcomes of Ambulatory Care Monitoring in Medicare Patients: Describing the Diagnostic Odyssey


Arnold, RJG and Layton, A., et al. (2015)
Journal of Health Economics and Outcomes Research


Objectives: The diagnostic sequence and costs for arrhythmia detection utilizing Holter ambulatory ECG monitoring have not been well studied. The objective of the current study was to characterize the number of patients and associated costs incurred in the diagnosis, additional monitoring, clinical events and sequelae after an initial Holter monitor in Medicare patients with arrhythmia—the diagnostic odyssey.

Methods: We performed a retrospective, longitudinal claims analysis using a 5% random sample of Medicare beneficiaries’ claims from the Fee-for-Service (FFS) Standard Analytic Files. The analysis was limited to patients with full benefits for 1 year prior and 2 years post the index 24- or 48-hour Holter event, no prior arrhythmia or Holter.

Results: The group of greatest interest was the “No results” category, since these 1,976 patients (11.1% of the total 17,887 patients evaluated) reflected the failure of repeat Holter monitoring to either detect clinical events or diagnose disease. In spite of this failure, there was a total allowed charge of more than $45 million or slightly more than $23,000 per involved patient. When extrapolated over the entire Medicare FFS population, this category was estimated to cost more than $900 million over the 2-year study period. Conclusions: Additional diagnostic paradigms need to be explored to improve upon these patient and system outcomes, where repeat monitoring frequently did not yield a diagnosis and patients continued to experience clinical events.


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