Background: The regular i.v.-therapy of adults with cystic fibrosis (CF) on an in-patient basis is regarded as expensive. Home treatment is supposed to be cheaper. During a prospective controlled study to compare in-patient treatment (SIT) with home i.v.-treatment (HIT) in regard to clinical, psychosocial and economic parameters, delivered health services and costs in the German setting were evaluated in a comparable manner.
Patients and methods: During the study period 4/95 to 9/96 45 patients with altogether 56 hospital and 40 home i.v.-courses of approximately 14 days were included in the study. Principal instruments to record the resource consumption were documentation sheets kept by the medical staff and the patients. In addition, pharmacy accounts in HIT and patient records and hospital controlling data in SIT were used.
Results: The average costs of a course were 14,038 DM for HIT and 18,702 DM for SIT. Striking are the large differences in medication costs. Two main reasons could be identified for the cost difference: 1, the use of a mobile infusion system in HIT and 2, the much higher prices of pharmaceuticals in the ambulatory care sector compared to the hospital sector, where extremely high profits of the home care service firms or the pharmacy can be supposed. The social costs of HIT (when antibiotics are valued to opportunity costs) are estimated at less than 10,500 DM. From a societal perspective HIT is preferable, from the perspective of the statutory health insurance funds hospital therapy is preferable.
Conclusions: 1. The widely accepted hypothesis that ambulatory care is cheaper than hospital care is--at least in the German setting--not a-priori true. 2. In the treatment of CF patients incentive failures exist which induce unnecessary and avoidable hospital stays if the perspective of the statutory sickness funds is dominant. 3. Changes in system conditions as e.g. the permission of mail-order pharmacies might help to implement a more rational allocation of resources.