A website that helps people with eczema manage their symptoms could be saving the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) hundreds of thousands of pounds, new research by the University of Southampton shows.
According to a press release from the university, the website, EczemaCareOnline.org.uk, or ECO for short, was developed by researchers at the University of Southampton. A new study published in the European Journal of Health Economics found that those using the website had improved quality of life as well as lower hospital care and medication costs.
The authors write their findings suggest the website saves the NHS between £20.82 and £34.15 (approximately CAD$36.00 to $58.25) per patient with eczema (or parent of a child with eczema) who visits. Given the website has now been visited by over 35,000 people, the potential savings to the NHS to date could range from £700,000 to over £1 million ($1,194,410.00 to more than $1,706,300.00).
Tracey Sach, Professor of Health Economics at the University of Southampton and lead for the economic component of the study said in the release: “Our previous paper in the BMJ demonstrated that the ECO website helped improve symptoms and outcomes for children and young people with eczema. Now, this new work demonstrates that this free-at-point-of-use website is low-cost to run and cost-effective for the NHS.”
The press release notes appropriate and consistent advice around treatments and management of the condition can make living with eczema easier for those who experience eczema and their carers. However, health professionals often don't have enough time to go into detail about self-care instructions. People with eczema and their families often report they have been given insufficient information about the condition and how to manage it.
The website provides evidence-based resources that have been shown to improve symptoms and behaviour change techniques to help patients self-manage their condition.
In the study, 650 participants were either given access to the website alongside usual care, or usual care alone from a clinician. The participants who accessed the website were shown to have improved quality of life and reduced NHS costs after 12 months, compared to those who received usual care alone. The new research paper comes after a paper in the BMJ in 2022 that found the website improved eczema symptoms in children and young people.
“Use of the website is a win-win”, said Miriam Santer, Professor of Primary Care Research at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study. “Parents and young people are able to take control of their condition and the NHS can reduce costs and provide people with evidence-based information that could otherwise be missed within a short primary care appointment.”
Researchers spoke to parents and young people who had used the website to understand what made it effective. The users said the website helped them to better understand eczema, reassured them about the safety of treatments, and made them feel more confident in using treatments. They also said that reading about the experiences of others with eczema helped young people to feel ‘normal’ and less alone. One said: “ECO is great if I have a quick question about something. Before I would have harassed my mum to take me to the doctors, which is a pain if you just have a very basic question, but now I just have a look on ECO.”
Professor Santer said: “The main change was greater confidence in managing eczema and understanding how treatments work, for example, the difference between regularly using moisturizers to prevent flare-ups and the prompt use of topical corticosteroids to manage flare-ups.”