Background: The outpatient treatment of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) with low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) has been shown to be cost-effective from the perspective of a third party payer. The aim of this study is to determine if some or all of these cost savings to third party payers are shifted to patients and their families.
Methods: A prospective cohort study with micro-costing of patient/family costs was conducted at the thrombosis units of The Ottawa Hospital. Costs were determined by administering a questionnaire at the end of the patients' heparin therapy. Over a period of 4 months, consecutive patients presenting at the thrombosis units were approached at the initiation of their heparin therapy; 44 patients consented to participate and completed questionnaires were obtained for 41.
Results: The mean patient/family costs associated with outpatient therapy were significantly less than those associated with inpatient therapy (219.42 dollars versus 402.93 dollars, p=0.003); a savings of 190.91 dollars per patient. Even when lost income to patients/families was ignored, mean patient/family costs remained significantly less for outpatient therapy (72.00 dollars versus 134.29 dollars, p=0.004); a savings of 62.30 dollars per patient. Furthermore, patients preferred outpatient to inpatient therapy by almost 3:1 (30 versus 11, respectively).
Interpretation: The outpatient treatment of DVT does not result in any net shifting of costs to patients and their families, and further, brings about cost savings. Given the cost savings associated with and the preference of patients for outpatient care, this study further supports the shift of DVT therapy from the inpatient unit to the outpatient clinic.