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Chiropractic Research Review

Chiropractic More Cost-Effective than Medical Care?

Cost-effectiveness comparisons between health professions can be used to help providers and consumers make economic decisions about health care. Such comparisons can also assist third-party payers, hospitals, HMOs and policymakers in maximizing utilization of often-limited health care funds.

A literature review attempted to compare and summarize the costs of care provided by chiropractors with that of care provided by general and specialist medical providers to patients with musculoskeletal injuries.

A literature search conducted using the MEDLINE database (1976-1998) and the CHIROLARS database (1980-1998) identified 683 studies, of which 22 fulfilled the study's inclusion criteria. A hand search of books and bibliographies revealed an additional two studies for comparison.

Results: The author reports that 16 of the 24 studies reported lower average total costs associated with chiropractic treatment. Almost all of the retrospective studies (15 out of 19) were in favor of chiropractic; 3 of 5 prospective studies favored medical management, and 2 of 5 showed no difference between the two disciplines in terms of average costs.

And the author's conclusion? "Perhaps what can be concluded is that, given the limited state of cost-effectiveness data ... chiropractic consistently shows benefit of a magnitude that should favorably affect coverage policy. Available cost data on chiropractic help bolster arguments for its inclusion in care delivery and coverage."

Branson RA. Cost comparison of chiropractic and medical treatment of common musculoskeletal disorders: A review of the literature after 1980. Topics in Clinical Chiropractic, June 1999:6(2), pp57-68. Reprints: (800) 638-8437

Chiropractic Research Review

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