Care Management Programs to Help Track and Monitor Care for Ongoing Health Problems

Often, coming down with an illness or affliction can mean countless visits with your physician. While necessary to receive care, there are other ways to bypass these visits with the use of care and disease management programs.

Many health insurance companies are now offering these programs, which are designed to allow the patient access to health information — often on a 24-hour basis via phone or e-mail. Some programs simply offer education and information, while others provide assistance from nurses and advice about prescription usage. The idea is to keep the patient out of the doctor's office until it's necessary, thus saving money for both the patient and insurance industry.

The programs aren't designed to replace a doctor or specialist, but instead give patients access to a health care specialist to help manage conditions between visits. For example, say you suffer from asthma and a non-life threatening condition exists, under this program you can simply make a phone call or jump on the computer to obtain information on how to proceed. Information from the program can also be used to develop a care strategy.

Such programs are meant to improve quality of health care and make patients more comfortable dealing with their health issues. Since the programs are relatively new, no information is available yet regarding a decrease in the number of visits to the emergency room or fewer incidents of hospitalization. It is also unknown which types of programs work better; since the idea is a work in progress, experts recommend that if you have ongoing health problem you should communicate with your doctor to discuss what options might be available for you.