Higher cancer care costs in hospitals vs. doctors' offices

New research suggests that many facets of cancer care cost considerably more in a hospital setting rather than an office. The study, released by Avalere Health, concluded that oncology patients receiving care in a hospital cost about 24 percent more on average than those receiving the same care in their physician's office or in a freestanding cancer treatment center.

Moreover, for treatment lasting only 30 days, it costs 28 percent more in hospitals. If the treatment was extended to a year, it costs 53 percent more in a hospital setting.

The differences were even starker to treat specific cancers, particularly those that attack the genitourinary systems, reported The Washington Post.

The study raises serious question for hospitals, which derive a significant amount of revenue from providing ancillary services such as oncology care, but also are treating patients confronting ever-increasing out-of-pocket costs. Although consumerism and price transparency are still only becoming market forces haltingly, such price differentials could eventually have a long-term influence on issues such as capital projects and market expansion.

Meanwhile, researchers are trying to strike a balance between finding effective cancer treatments and not bankrupting patients or providers, Reuters reported.

"Chemotherapy treatment in an oncologist's office costs less than in a hospital regardless of the length of treatment," Avalere Vice President Eric Hammelman, a study author, said yesterday in a statement. "At a time when the healthcare community is focused on managing costs, these findings show the importance of where care is delivered, and raise important questions about how best to manage cancer treatment."

For more:
- here's the Avalere study (.pdf) and press releease
- read the Washington Post blog post
- read the Reuters article