As health care costs rise exponentially in the United States, increasing emphasis is being placed on measuring value, which incorporates both quality and costs. Although the concept of continuous quality improvement has taken a firm foothold in health care, techniques for measuring and continuously improving costs at the patient or system level are lacking.
A retrospective, microcosting analysis mapped detailed medical costs over 18 months for 25 patients with nonsyndromic, isolated cleft palate to illustrate the concept of a continuous cost improvement map in a complex, multidisciplinary condition.
Care for patients with nonsyndromic, isolated cleft palate was mapped to three timelines based on diagnostic subtype. Patients with Robin sequence requiring early surgical intervention for airway or feeding management (n = 4) had median costs that were triple those of Robin patients managed conservatively (n = 5) ($87,841 versus $27,864, respectively) as compared with patients without Robin sequence (n = 16) ($15,698). Inpatient services accounted for 85 to 95 percent of all costs, which were driven by the operating room, intensive care unit, and inpatient ward. More detailed analysis of each cost driver is reported.
The cost improvement map provides a counterpart to the quality improvement map to illustrate how costs may be incorporated into value improvement efforts for complex, multidisciplinary conditions. The transparency and level of detail provided by this methodology are critical for internal improvement efforts and offer valuable insight for health care managers and policy makers, whose decisions should be based on accurate, patient-centered data.
From Harvard Medical School; the Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery, Children's Hospital Boston; and the Department of Otolaryngology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Received for publication July 12, 2010; accepted October 6, 2010.
Disclosure:The authors have no commercial associations, financial disclosures, or funding sources to disclose.
John G. Meara, M.D., D.M.D., M.B.A.; Department of Plastic and Oral Surgery; Children's Hospital Boston; 300 Longwood Avenue, Enders 1; Boston, Mass. 02115; email@example.com