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Resource utilization and costs in adolescents treated for cancer in pediatric vs adult institutions

Nathan PC, Bremner KE, Liu N, Gupta S, Greenberg ML, McBride ML, Krahn MD, de Oliveira C. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2019; 111(3):322-30. Epub 2018 Jul 19.


Background — Adolescents with cancer can receive care in pediatric or adult institutions. Survival often differs by locus, but little is known about relative health care utilization and costs. We estimated these in a population-based cohort of adolescents. 

Methods — All Ontario adolescents (15.0-17.9 years) diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2010 were identified from provincial cancer registries. We compared health care resource utilization (hospitalizations, emergency department visits, same-day surgeries, outpatient chemotherapy, radiation, diagnostic/laboratory tests, physician services, home care) and costs (2012 Canadian dollars) during four discrete care phases -- prediagnosis (60 days), initial (360 days), continuing (variable), and terminal (360 days) -- between adolescents treated in pediatric vs adult institutions, for the whole cohort and within seven diagnostic categories. All statistical tests were two-sided. 

Results — Of 1356 eligible adolescents, 691 and 665 were treated in adult and pediatric institutions, respectively. Hospitalization rates were higher in pediatric institutions during prediagnosis (14.9% vs 6.9%, P < .001), initial (95.1% vs 73.3%, P < .001), and continuing phases (43.2% vs 34.4%, P = .002), but similar (96.1% vs 96.3%, P=.93) during the terminal phase. Average length of stay was higher at pediatric institutions within most diagnoses and phases. For all diagnoses, median initial phase costs were higher in pediatric than adult institutions (eg, leukemia: $153 926 vs $102 418 per 360 days, P<.001; lymphoma: $65 025 vs $19 846, P<.001, respectively). 

Conclusions — The costs of caring for adolescents with the same malignancy are considerably higher in pediatric than adult institutions during most phases. Resource utilization, particularly hospitalization, drives much of the cost difference, making these data applicable to other jurisdictions.


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