Quantifying the costs and profitability of care for diabetic foot ulcers treated in a multidisciplinary setting

J Vasc Surg. 2019 Jul;70(1):233-240. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2018.10.097. Epub 2019 Jan 1.


Objective: Increasing Wound, Ischemia, and foot Infection (WIfI) stage has previously been shown to be associated with prolonged wound healing time, higher number of surgical procedures, and increased cost of care in patients with diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) treated in a multidisciplinary setting. However, the profitability of this care model is unknown. We aimed to quantify the hospital costs and net margins associated with multidisciplinary DFU care.

Methods: All patients presenting to our multidisciplinary diabetic limb preservation service (January 2012-June 2016) were enrolled in a prospective database. Inpatient and outpatient costs and net margin (U.S. dollars) were calculated for each wound episode (initial visit until complete wound healing) overall and per day of care according to WIfI classification.

Results: A total of 319 wound episodes in 248 patients were captured. Patients required an average of 2.6 ± 0.2 inpatient admissions and 0.9 ± 0.1 outpatient procedures to achieve complete healing. Limb salvage at 1 year was 95.0% ± 2.4%. The overall mean cost of care per wound episode was $24,226 ± $2176, including $41,420 ± $3318 for inpatient admissions and $11,265 ± $1038 for outpatient procedures. The mean net margin was $2412 ± $375 per wound episode, including $5128 ± $622 for inpatient admissions and a net loss ($-3730 ± $596) for outpatient procedures. Mean time to wound healing was 136.3 ± 7.9 days, ranging from 106.5 ± 13.1 days for WIfI stage 1 wounds to 229.5 ± 20.0 days for WIfI stage 4 wounds (P < .001). When adjusted for days of care, the net margin ranged from $2.6 ± $1.3 per day (WIfI stage 1) to $23.6 ± $18.8 (WIfI stage 4).

Conclusions: The costs associated with multidisciplinary DFU care are substantial, especially with advanced-stage wounds. Whereas hospitals can operate at a profit overall, the net margins associated with outpatient procedures performed in a hospital-based facility are prohibitive, and the overall net margins are relatively low, given the labor required to achieve good outcomes. Thus, reimbursement for the multidisciplinary care of DFUs should be re-examined.

Keywords: Costs; Diabetic foot ulcer; Diabetic foot wound; Multidisciplinary; Profit; WIfI.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / economics
  • Commerce*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diabetic Foot / diagnosis
  • Diabetic Foot / economics*
  • Diabetic Foot / therapy*
  • Female
  • Hospital Costs*
  • Humans
  • Limb Salvage / economics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission / economics
  • Patient Care Team / economics*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing