It is widely assumed that health care costs can be reduced considerably by providing care in appropriate health care institutions without unnecessary technological overhead. This assumption has been tested in a prospective study. Conventional discharge after hip fracture surgery was compared with an early discharge policy in which patients were discharged to a nursing home with specialised facilities for rehabilitation. We compared costs for both strategies from a societal perspective, using comprehensive and detailed data on type of residence and all kinds of medical consumption during a 4-month follow-up period. As expected, early discharge reduced the hospital stay (with 13 days, p=0.001). More patients were discharged to a nursing home (76% versus 53%). Total medical costs during follow-up were reduced from an average of 15 338 to 14 281, representing relatively small and not significant savings (p=0.3). There are two explanations for this unexpected result. First, costs incurred by hip fracture patients were relatively less while in hospital. Hence, nursing home costs almost equalled hospital costs per admission day. Second, compared with the conventionally discharged group early discharged patients were subjected to more medical procedures during the first post-operative days. We conclude that: (1) early discharge shifted rather than reduced costs; (2) the details of costing have a major influence on the cost-effectiveness of alternative discharge policies. Copyright

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Health Economics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Polder, J.J, van Balen, R, Steyerberg, E.W, Cools, H.J.M, & Habbema, J.D.F. (2003). A cost-minimisation study of alternative discharge policies after hip fracture repair. Health Economics, 12(2), 87–100. doi:10.1002/hec.690