Objectives: The great interest focused on home care technologies during the last decade resulted from its potential to cut costs. However, the reallocation of costs between healthcare providers and social welfare providers, and the indirect costs of informal care, are not as frequent topics of discussion. The aim of this paper is to discuss different models for estimating the costs of informal care in the home care setting in economic appraisals.
Methods: The outcome of using different models for estimating indirect costs was illustrated using empirical data regarding the time spent by informal caregivers in providing care in a group of home care patients (n = 59). The models used comprise different interpretations of the traditional human capital approach and the friction cost model.
Results and conclusions: Informal care is an important component in home care. The inclusion of indirect costs of informal care in economic appraisals will have implications for the cost-effectiveness of home care, since it will raise costs depending on the model used for estimating indirect costs. In this study we have shown that indirect costs estimated by the friction cost model only amount to 18% to 44% of the cost when the human capital approach is used. The results indicate that, regardless of the method used to estimate indirect costs, the cost of informal care in evaluations of home care programs is often underestimated due to the exclusion of indirect costs.