The time costs for patients with multi-morbidities – it can be like having a part-time job

On the topic of time, ironically, it has taken me a while to get around to writing this article…… ;-)

In July 2013 I attended the Primary Health Care Research & Information Service (PHCRIS) conference (2014 conference registrations are open now). One of the presentations I attended was by Tanisha Jowsey, whose PhD is on how much time older Australians with multiple chronic conditions spend managing their health. Ms Jowsey is one of the authors of the study “Time’s Up. Descriptive Epidemiology of Multi-Morbidity and Time Spent on Health Related Activity by Older Australians: A Time Use Survey”

Over 2540 survey responses were obtained from Australians aged 50 years and over, with the following three groups of activities being considered:

  1. Clinical - activities related to the use of medical and allied services, such as making appointments, travelling to health services, waiting in waiting rooms, attending appointments & having medical treatments
  2. Other – activities relating to obtaining information, support or products – e.g. attending rehabilitation programs, education programs, support groups, shopping for special foods, and seeking/reading health information
  3. Home – activities including exercising, preparing & consuming medications and undertaking tests at home (such as blood glucose monitoring

The respondents were in places into one of three categories, the first two depending on whether their chronic conditions included Diabetes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), with the third group being made up of a cross-section of members of the National Seniors Association (NSA). The mean number of chronic conditions was 3.7 for the COPD group, 3.4 for the Diabetes group, and 2.0 for the NSA group. Here is a table of some of the key findings in this study:

Of course, the study showed some extreme cases as well. The people in the top 10% of time use in the COPD, Diabetes and NSA groups spent 62.6, 51.4 and 34.1 hours per month on health related activities respectively. For people with five or more co-morbidities in the COPD, Diabetes and NSA groups, estimates of 109.5, 80.1 and 71.5 hours per month of health related activities were given.

So for people with multiple chronic diseases, looking after their health can become like having a part-time job of up to 25 hours per week. Since attending this talk at the PHCRIS conference, it has made me wonder how many hours per week or month healthy people spend when they are younger to maintain their health throughout their lifetime. It seems logical that you are going to spend time on your health some time – whether it’s on maintaining good health in your younger years or managing poor health in your latter years. If someone has seen this data, I’d love to compare the two.

Be on the lookout for our article about which allied health practitioners patients with diseases see – it will be published in a couple of days.

Amanda – Founder My Health Career

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