Hospital costs for pediatric asthma care vary widely



A new study of the care delivered to pediatric asthma patients finds that the costs of controlling the disease varies widely among providers.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, reveals that the costs among 37 different children's hospitals to treat nearly 49,000 patients varied by nearly $2,800 ($3,157 to $5,912, an 87 percent differential).

Much of the cost differential was attributed to similarly wide variations in the use of intensive care units to treat patients (it ranged from 6.5 percent of patients receiving ICU care in an individual hospital to as many as 23 percent of patients, a differential of 254 percent); while average lengths of hospital stay varied from 1.5 days to 2.2 days, a differential of 47 percent.

“Asthma imposes a major financial burden on many healthcare systems,” said study leader Jeffrey H. Silber, M.D., director of the Center for Outcomes Research at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in a statement. "If hospitals can better understand if their care practices are disproportionately expensive and inefficient compared to other hospitals, they may be better able to pinpoint opportunities for quality improvements."

Asthma in general is a costly chronic condition to manage in either adults or children, primarily due to relatively low medication compliance rates and a correspondingly higher hospitalization rate.

Those programs that have had success controlling the disease and its associated costs usually include rigid guidelines for patients to comply with taking controlling drugs. In that case, the Advocate Health Care system in Chicago was able to save a minimum of $13 million.

In other instances, smartphone apps geared toward children have also shown success in cutting down pediatric asthma hospitalization rates.

- read the JAMA Pediatrics study abstract
- check out the statement