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Cost comparison of at-home treatment of deep venous thrombosis with low molecular weight heparin to inpatient treatment with unfractionated heparin

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Aims: Low molecular weight heparins (LMWH) permit safe and effective treatment of uncomplicated deep venous thrombosis (DVT) at home. The aim of this study was to evaluate the cost minimization, cost shifting and patient satisfaction associated with at-home DVT treatment using the LMWH enoxaparin, compared to standard inpatient care in an Australian health-care setting.

Methods: Subjects presenting with a principal diagnosis of uncomplicated DVT to the Emergency Department at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, were recruited over 1997–1999. Costs to the hospital, to Federal funding (Medicare) and to patients were tracked prospectively, and satisfaction was also measured. Subjects were matched to historical controls (1994–1997) for age, gender and level of comorbidity (same or lower) by two medical officers who were blinded to costs. Control costs were obtained using the clinical costing system Trendstar┬«, and adjusted for consumer price index.

Results: Twenty-eight subjects participated in the at-home programme. Of these, 26 were discharged without any inpatient admission (including one who agreed to self-injection) and two were admitted briefly. Audit demonstrated that only 29% of eligible subjects were managed at home. Mean (SEM) total treatment cost was $756 (76) per patient for at-home, and $2208 (146) for controls. Minimal cost shifts to patients and to Medicare occurred, and satisfaction was high.

Conclusions: At-home treatment of uncomplicated DVT using enoxaparin in an Australian metropolitan setting provides effective cost minimization, with little cost-shifting. Our cost minimisation estimates are conservative as most at-home subjects received enoxaparin twice daily (now used once per day) and controls had at least as high comorbidity. However, uptake of the at-home programme was limited. (Intern Med J 2002; 32: 29–34)
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Keywords: cost minimization; deep venous thrombosis; low molecular weight heparin

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Medicine, University of Adelaide, 2: Clinical Epidemiology and Health Outcomes Unit, North Western Adelaide Health Service, 3: North Western Adelaide Health Service, 4: Interface Program, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woodville, South Australia, Australia

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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