Background: Anthroposophic therapies (counselling, special medication, art, eurythmy movement, and rhythmical massage) aim to stimulate long-term self-healing processes, which theoretically could lead to a reduction of healthcare use. In a prospective two-year cohort study, anthroposophic therapies were followed by a reduction of chronic disease symptoms and improvement of quality of life. The purpose of this analysis was to describe health costs in users of anthroposophic therapies.
Methods: 717 consecutive outpatients from 134 medical practices in Germany, starting anthroposophic therapies for chronic diseases, participated in a prospective cohort study. We analysed direct health costs (anthroposophic therapies, physician and dentist consultations, psychotherapy, medication, physiotherapy, ergotherapy, hospital treatment, rehabilitation) and indirect costs (sick leave compensation) in the pre-study year and the first two study years. Costs were calculated from resource utilisation, documented by patient self-reporting. Data were collected from January 1999 to April 2003.
Results: Total health costs in the first study year (bootstrap mean 3,297 Euro; 95% confidence interval 95%-CI 3,157 Euro to 3,923 Euro) did not differ significantly from the pre-study year (3,186 Euro; 95%-CI 3,037 Euro to 3,711 Euro), whereas in the second year, costs (2,771 Euro; 95%-CI 2,647 Euro to 3,256 Euro) were significantly reduced by 416 Euro (95%-CI 264 Euro to 960 Euro) compared to the pre-study year. In each period hospitalisation and sick-leave together amounted to more than half of the total health costs. Anthroposophic therapies and medication amounted to 3%, 15%, and 8% of total health costs in the pre-study year, first year, and second study year, respectively. The cost reduction in the second year was largely accounted for by a decrease of inpatient hospitalisation, leading to a hospital cost reduction of 519 Euro (95%-CI 377 Euro to 904 Euro) compared to the pre-study year.
Conclusion: In patients starting anthroposophic therapies for chronic disease, total health costs did not increase in the first year, and were reduced in the second year. This reduction was largely explained by a decrease of inpatient hospitalisation. Within the limits of a pre-post design, study findings suggest that anthroposophic therapies are not associated with a relevant increase in total health costs.