Objective: To investigate the effects of the availability of daily patient-related charges to healthcare providers on practice patterns and cost containment in the pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) setting.
Design: Prospective, nonrandomized, controlled trial.
Setting: Pediatric ICU.
Patients: All patients admitted to the pediatric ICU during the study period. This number included a prospective control group (n=325) and an intervention group (n=273). These 598 patients spent 2,274 patient days in the pediatric ICU.
Interventions: The daily itemized patient charges related to diagnostic studies ordered in the pediatric ICU were made available to healthcare providers during the intervention period of the study.
Measurements and main results: Information was collected prospectively on patients in the control group before the intervention period. This information included data on demographics, daily severity of illness measures, daily resource consumption, intensity of nursing and medical interventions, and daily patient-related charges. Outcome information on survival and length of pediatric ICU stay was also collected. The same data were collected prospectively during the intervention period of the study. Measurements on quality assurance and morbidity were made to ensure that there was no compromise in patient care. There were no significant differences in patient demographics and diagnoses between the control and intervention groups. There was a reduction in the average daily laboratory (16.7%), radiology (9.1%) computerized axial tomography (8.5%), and pharmacy (25.1%) charges in the intervention group as compared with controls. The decreases in laboratory and pharmacy charges were statistically significant (p<.0001). The decreases in laboratory and pharmacy charges remained significant even after adjustment for severity of illness.
Conclusions: The availability of patient-related charges to healthcare providers can result in changes in practice patterns, producing a decrease of patient charges and an improvement in cost containment in the pediatric ICU.