Objectives: To measure the marginal costs of providing complementary medicine services (mostly homoeopathy) in outpatient clinics for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to illustrate how parameters to which the cost of complementary medicine may be sensitive can be identified.
Design: Retrospective, observational costing study.
Setting: The outpatient clinic of the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital.
Subjects: Random sample of 89 patients from the 427 (RA) patients attending outpatient clinics from April 1995 to March 1996.
Main outcome measures: The marginal costs incurred by the hospital of treating 89 patients attending outpatient clinics and the relative contribution of the different resources to the total costs.
Results: The total costs of treating 89 patients were 7,124 Pounds of which 543 Pounds was assumed to be fixed and the remainder variable. The marginal costs of treating additional patients, starting from zero patients treated, are presented. Consultation time (doctors and dietician) contributed to 29% of the total costs, non-conventional drugs contributed to 22% of the total costs.
Conclusions: Understanding the marginal costs of providing complementary care to RA patients will inform the debate over whether these therapies are likely to be cost-effective. In addition, those who would like to explore the practicalities of establishing a service involving complementary medicine will gain an understanding of the likely provider costs. The cost of complementary medicine appears to be most sensitive to the time spent with the patient by the doctor.