Utilizing time-driven activity-based costing to understand the short- and long-term costs of treating localized, low-risk prostate cancer

Cancer. 2016 Feb 1;122(3):447-55. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29743. Epub 2015 Nov 2.


Background: Given the costs of delivering care for men with prostate cancer remain poorly described, this article reports the results of time-driven activity-based costing (TDABC) for competing treatments of low-risk prostate cancer.

Methods: Process maps were developed for each phase of care from the initial urologic visit through 12 years of follow-up for robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy (RALP), cryotherapy, high-dose rate (HDR) and low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), and active surveillance (AS). The last modality incorporated both traditional transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) biopsy and multiparametric-MRI/TRUS fusion biopsy. The costs of materials, equipment, personnel, and space were calculated per unit of time and based on the relative proportion of capacity used. TDABC for each treatment was defined as the sum of its resources.

Results: Substantial cost variation was observed at 5 years, with costs ranging from $7,298 for AS to $23,565 for IMRT, and they remained consistent through 12 years of follow-up. LDR brachytherapy ($8,978) was notably cheaper than HDR brachytherapy ($11,448), and SBRT ($11,665) was notably cheaper than IMRT, with the cost savings attributable to shorter procedure times and fewer visits required for treatment. Both equipment costs and an inpatient stay ($2,306) contributed to the high cost of RALP ($16,946). Cryotherapy ($11,215) was more costly than LDR brachytherapy, largely because of increased single-use equipment costs ($6,292 vs $1,921). AS reached cost equivalence with LDR brachytherapy after 7 years of follow-up.

Conclusions: The use of TDABC is feasible for analyzing cancer services and provides insights into cost-reduction tactics in an era focused on emphasizing value. By detailing all steps from diagnosis and treatment through 12 years of follow-up for low-risk prostate cancer, this study has demonstrated significant cost variation between competing treatments.

Keywords: active surveillance; brachytherapy; cost analysis; prostate neoplasms; radical prostatectomy; radiotherapy; value-based purchasing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brachytherapy / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy / economics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Prostatectomy / economics*
  • Prostatectomy / methods
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / economics*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Radiosurgery / economics*
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated / economics*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures / economics
  • United States
  • Watchful Waiting / economics