Disease management has emerged as a new strategy to enhance quality of care for patients suffering from chronic conditions, and to control healthcare costs. So far, however, the effects of this strategy remain unclear. Although current models define the concept of disease management, they do not provide a systematic development or an explanatory theory of how disease management affects the outcomes of care. The objective of this paper is to present a framework for valid evaluation of disease-management initiatives. The evaluation model is built on two pillars of disease management: patient-related and professional-directed interventions. The effectiveness of these interventions is thought to be affected by the organisational design of the healthcare system. Disease management requires a multifaceted approach; hence disease-management programme evaluations should focus on the effects of multiple interventions, namely patient-related, professional-directed and organisational interventions. The framework has been built upon the conceptualisation of these disease-management interventions. Analysis of the underlying mechanisms of these interventions revealed that learning and behavioural theories support the core assumptions of disease management. The evaluation model can be used to identify the components of disease-management programmes and the mechanisms behind them, making valid comparison feasible. In addition, this model links the programme interventions to indicators that can be used to evaluate the disease-management programme. Consistent use of this framework will enable comparisons among disease-management programmes and outcomes in evaluation research.
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