Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee is expanding a pilot medical care improvement program that cut the cost of treating 440 patients by $1.2 million in just a few months.

Tennessee Blue, Chattanooga, Tenn., says it sharply reduced hospital re-admission rates for the patients, who appeared to be at high risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis, simply by educating them about deep-vein thrombosis risk factors and following their progress.

Deep-vein thrombosis is a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the large veins. The clots can severely damage the lungs and other organs.

Some studies have suggested that deep-vein thrombosis and related conditions may be the immediate cause of as many as 5% of all deaths, Tennessee Blue says.

Tennessee Blue researchers organized a pilot DVT Awareness Program from April 2006 to June 2006 by identifying 440 commercially insured members who were undergoing total hip procedures, total knee procedures, abdominal surgeries and other in-patient procedures carrying the greatest risk for deep-vein thrombosis.

The awareness team then moved, with the permission of patients’ doctors, to review the risk-assessment results with the patients, tell the patients about deep-vein thrombosis, and follow the status of the patients while they were in the hospital and after their discharge.

The pilot program seems to have reduced the incidence of deep-vein thrombosis and cut the re-admission rate for patients to 10%, Tennessee Blue says.

Tennessee Blue says it now has expanded the DVT Awareness Program to include all patients ages 16 to 60 in all lines of business.