Background: Asthma is a chronic lung disease in which recurrent asthma symptoms create a substantial burden to individuals and their families. At the same time the economic burden associated with asthma is considerable.
Methods: The cost-effectiveness study was part of a single centre prospective randomised controlled trial comparing a nurse-led telemonitoring programme to usual care in a population of asthmatic outpatients. The study included 109 asthmatic outpatients (56 children; 53 adults). The duration of follow-up was 12 months, and measurements were performed at baseline, 4, 8, and 12 months. Patients were asked to transfer their monitor data at least twice daily and by judging the received data and following a stepwise intervention protocol a nurse was able to act as the main caregiver in the intervention group. In both groups the EQ-5D and the SF-6D were used to obtain estimates of health state utilities. One year health care costs, patient and family costs, and productivity losses were calculated. The mean incremental costs were weighted against the mean incremental effect in terms of QALY.
Results: The study population generally represented mild to moderate asthmatics. No significant differences were found between the groups with regard to the generic quality of life. Overall, the mean health care costs per patient were higher in the intervention group than in the control group. The intervention costs mainly caused the cost difference between the groups. The intervention costs the society euro 31,035/QALY gained with regard to adults and with regard to children euro 59,071/QALY gained.
Conclusion: If the outcome is measured by generic quality of life the nurse-led telemonitoring programme is of limited cost-effectiveness in the study population. From the societal perspective the probability of the programme being cost-effective compared to regular care was 85% at a ceiling ratio of euro 80,000/QALY gained among the adults and 68% among the children. A decrease in the price of the asthma monitor will substantial increase the probability of the programme to be cost-effective.