Skip to main content
Effective Health Care Program

Outpatient Case Management for Adults With Medical Illness and Complex Care Needs

Systematic Review Archived

Archived: This report is greater than 3 years old. Findings may be used for research purposes, but should not be considered current.

People using assistive technology may not be able to fully access information in these files. For additional assistance, please contact us.

Structured Abstract


In this evidence review we evaluated outpatient case management (CM) as an intervention strategy for chronic illness management. We summarized the existing evidence related to the effectiveness of CM in improving patient-centered outcomes, quality of care, and resource utilization in adults with chronic medical illness and complex care needs. We also assessed the effectiveness of CM according to patient and intervention characteristics.

Data Sources

Articles were identified from searches of the MEDLINE®, CINAHL®, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects. The databases were searched through August 2011.

Review Methods

Two reviewers evaluated abstracts and articles against prespecified inclusion criteria. Eligible studies were quality rated and data were extracted, entered into tables, and summarized. Due to the heterogeneity of outcomes, meta-analyses were not conducted. Systematic reviews were retrieved for reference, but data from pooled results of published reviews were not included in our analysis.


Of the 5,645 citations identified, we screened and reviewed 1,201 full-length articles and included 153 articles representing 109 studies. Many of the published trials of CM examined programs that targeted specific patient conditions, and the approaches to CM were diverse. Overall, the interventions tested in the studies were associated with only small changes in patient-centered outcomes, quality of care, and resource utilization. While CM can improve some types of health care utilization, there are minimal effects on overall costs of care. For selected populations, the characteristics of successful interventions included intense CM with greater contact time, longer duration, face-to-face visits, and integration with patients' usual care providers.


Recognizing the heterogeneity of study populations, interventions, and outcomes, we sought to elucidate the conditions under which CM was effective. We found that CM had limited impact on patient-centered outcomes, quality of care, and resource utilization among patients with chronic medical illness.