Are multidisciplinary teams in secondary care cost-effective? A systematic review of the literature

Cost Eff Resour Alloc. 2013 Apr 4;11(1):7. doi: 10.1186/1478-7547-11-7.


Objective: To investigate the cost effectiveness of management of patients within the context of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting in cancer and non-cancer teams in secondary care.

Design: Systematic review.

Data sources: EMBASE, MEDLINE, NHS EED, CINAHL, EconLit, Cochrane Library, and NHS HMIC.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), cohort, case-control, before and after and cross-sectional study designs including an economic evaluation of management decisions made in any disease in secondary care within the context of an MDT meeting.

Data extraction: Two independent reviewers extracted data and assessed methodological quality using the Consensus on Health Economic Criteria (CHEC-list). MDTs were defined by evidence of two characteristics: decision making requiring a minimum of two disciplines; and regular meetings to discuss diagnosis, treatment and/or patient management, occurring at a physical location or by teleconferencing. Studies that reported on the costs of administering, preparing for, and attending MDT meetings and/or the subsequent direct medical costs of care, non-medical costs, or indirect costs, and any health outcomes that were relevant to the disease being investigated were included and classified as cancer or non-cancer MDTs.

Results: Fifteen studies (11 RCTs in non-cancer care, 2 cohort studies in cancer and non-cancer care, and 2 before and after studies in cancer and non cancer care) were identified, all with a high risk of bias. Twelve papers reported the frequency of meetings which varied from daily to three monthly and all reported the number of disciplines included (mean 5, range 2 to 9). The results from all studies showed mixed effects; a high degree of heterogeneity prevented a meta-analysis of findings; and none of the studies reported how the potential savings of MDT working may offset the costs of administering, preparing for, and attending MDT meetings.

Conclusions: Current evidence is insufficient to determine whether MDT working is cost-effective or not in secondary care. Further studies aimed at understanding the key aspects of MDT working that lead to cost-effective cancer and non-cancer care are required.