Importance: In an era of accountable care, understanding variation in health care costs is critical to reducing health care spending.
Objective: To identify factors associated with increased hospital costs and quantify variations in costs among individual hospitals in patients undergoing liver and pancreatic surgery in the United States.
Design, setting, and participants: Retrospective analysis of total costs among 42 480 patients undergoing hepatopancreaticobiliary surgery from January 1, 2002, through December 31, 2011, using a nationally representative data set (Nationwide Inpatient Sample of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project). Analysis was conducted in May 2015.
Main outcomes and measures: Total inpatient costs and proportional variation in inpatient costs among individual hospitals.
Results: Among the 42 480 patients who underwent liver or pancreatic resection, the median age was 62 years, 52.4% were female, and 72.9% had a Charlson Comorbidity Index of 2 or higher. The median cost for the entire cohort was $21,535 (interquartile range, $15,373-$31,104), varying from $3320 to $279,102 among individual hospitals. On multivariable analysis, increasing patient comorbidity (coefficient, 2000.30; 95% CI, 1363.33-2637.27; P < .001) and operative characteristics (total pancreatectomy: coefficient, 12 742.31; 95% CI, 10 063.66-15 420.94; P < .001; lobectomy: coefficient, 6336.42; 95% CI, 3934.61-8737.24; P < .001) were associated with higher hospital costs. The development of postoperative complications, such as sepsis (coefficient, 30 571.25; 95% CI, 29 308.96-31 833.54; P < .001) or stroke (coefficient, 8925.34; 95% CI, 2801.38-15 049.30; P = .004), and a longer length of stay were most strongly predictive of higher inpatient cost (length of stay >14 days: coefficient, 44 162.24; 95% CI, 43 125.56-45 198.92; P < .001). After adjusting for patient and hospital characteristics, the overall cost of hepatopancreaticobiliary surgery varied by $9000 among individual hospitals.
Conclusions and relevance: Significant variability was noted in hospital costs among patients undergoing pancreatic and liver surgery. Future policies should focus on reducing variations in costs by promoting payment paradigms that support a better quality of care and lower costs.