To evaluate the economic implications of payments based on Chinese diagnosis-related groups for critically ill patients in ICUs in terms of total hospital expenditure, out-of-pocket payments, and length of stay.
A pre-post comparison of patient cohorts admitted to ICUs 1 year before and 1 year after Chinese diagnosis-related group reform was undertaken. Demographic characteristics, clinical data, and medical expenditures were collated from a health insurance database.
Twenty-two public hospitals in Sanming, Southern China.
All patients admitted to ICUs from January 1, 2017, to December 31, 2018.
The implementation of Chinese diagnosis-related group–based payments on January 1, 2018.
Measurements and Main Results:
Economic variables (total expenditures, out-of-pocket payments, and length of stay) were calculated for each patient from the day of hospital admission to the day of hospital discharge. Adjusted mean out-of-pocket payment estimates were 29.46% (p < 0.001) lower following reform. Adjusted mean out-of-pocket payments fell by 41.32% for patients in neonatal ICU, whereas there were no significant decreases in out-of-pocket payments for patients in PICU and adult ICU. Furthermore, adjusted mean out-of-pocket payments decreased by 55.74% in secondary hospitals, but there was no significant change in tertiary hospitals after Chinese diagnosis-related group reform. No significant changes were found in total expenditures and length of stay.
Chinese diagnosis-related group policy provided an opportunity for critically ill patients in ICUs to achieve at least short-term financial benefits in reducing out-of-pocket payments, without affecting the total expenditures and length of stay. Chinese diagnosis-related group–based payment significantly relieved financial burdens for patients with lower illness severities, such as patients in neonatal ICU. The results of this study can offer significant insights for policymakers in reducing the financial burden on critically ill patients, both in China and in other countries with similar systems.