Individualized Health Care Budgets Improve Care

April 11, 2008

The U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) should allow patients individual control of their health care budgets, an approach that has been shown in pilot studies to improve outcomes and patient satisfaction in a cost-effective manner, according to an analysis published April 12 in BMJ.

FRIDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- The U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) should allow patients individual control of their health care budgets, an approach that has been shown in pilot studies to improve outcomes and patient satisfaction in a cost-effective manner, according to an analysis published April 12 in BMJ.

Vidhya Alakeson, of the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C., makes a case for individualized funding mechanisms that allow patients to decide how their health care budgets are spent.

As examples of the model's success, the author describes individualized funding programs in social care in the United Kingdom that led to reduced costs and improved patient satisfaction, and cites U.S. programs piloting individual budgets for patients with mental illness that resulted in greater mental health stability, increased patient satisfaction and decreased use of crisis-related services.

Individualized budgets would allow patients to more accurately match resources with their health care needs, the author argues, and would signal the NHS's commitment to patient-centered care. "The time has come for governments to match their rhetorical commitment to a patient-centered health care system that delivers high-quality, integrated care for long-term conditions to a real commitment to pilot individual budgets in health care."

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