Study objective: We report on the incremental costs associated with improvements in health-related quality of life (HRQL) following 6 months of respiratory rehabilitation compared with conventional community care.
Design: Prospective randomized controlled trial of rehabilitation.
Setting: A respiratory rehabilitation unit.
Participants: Eighty-four subjects who completed the rehabilitation trial.
Intervention: Two months of inpatient rehabilitation followed by 4 months of outpatient supervision.
Measurements and results: All costs (hospitalization, medical care, medications, home care, assistive devices, transportation) were included. Simultaneous allocation was used to determine capital and direct and indirect hospitalization costs. The incremental cost of achieving improvements beyond the minimal clinically important difference in dyspnea, emotional function, and mastery was $11,597 (Canadian). More than 90% of this cost was attributable to the inpatient phase of the program. Of the nonphysician health-care professionals, nursing was identified as the largest cost center, followed by physical therapy and occupational therapy. The number of subjects needed to be treated (NNT) to improve one subject was 4.1 for dyspnea, 4.4 for fatigue, 3.3 for emotion, and 2.5 for mastery.
Conclusion: Cost estimates of various approaches to rehabilitation should be combined with valid, reliable, and responsive measures of outcome to enable cost-effectiveness measures to be reported. Comparison studies with the same method are necessary to determine whether the improvements in HRQL that follow inpatient rehabilitation are cheap or expensive. Such information will be important in identifying the extent to which alternative approaches to rehabilitation can influence resource allocation. A consideration of cost-effectiveness from the perspective of NNT may be useful in the evaluation of health-care programs.