Econometric estimation of country-specific hospital costs

Cost Eff Resour Alloc. 2003 Feb 26;1(1):3. doi: 10.1186/1478-7547-1-3.


Information on the unit cost of inpatient and outpatient care is an essential element for costing, budgeting and economic-evaluation exercises. Many countries lack reliable estimates, however. WHO has recently undertaken an extensive effort to collect and collate data on the unit cost of hospitals and health centres from as many countries as possible; so far, data have been assembled from 49 countries, for various years during the period 1973-2000. The database covers a total of 2173 country-years of observations. Large gaps remain, however, particularly for developing countries. Although the long-term solution is that all countries perform their own costing studies, the question arises whether it is possible to predict unit costs for different countries in a standardized way for short-term use. The purpose of the work described in this paper, a modelling exercise, was to use the data collected across countries to predict unit costs in countries for which data are not yet available, with the appropriate uncertainty intervals.The model presented here forms part of a series of models used to estimate unit costs for the WHO-CHOICE project. The methods and the results of the model, however, may be used to predict a number of different types of country-specific unit costs, depending on the purpose of the exercise. They may be used, for instance, to estimate the costs per bed-day at different capacity levels; the "hotel" component of cost per bed-day; or unit costs net of particular components such as drugs.In addition to reporting estimates for selected countries, the paper shows that unit costs of hospitals vary within countries, sometimes by an order of magnitude. Basing cost-effectiveness studies or budgeting exercises on the results of a study of a single facility, or even a small group of facilities, is likely to be misleading.