Radiotherapy and oncology vol:56 issue:3 pages:289-295
PURPOSE: To analyze the reimbursement modalities for radiotherapy in the different Western European countries, as well as to investigate if these differences have an impact on the palliative radiotherapy practice for bone metastases. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A questionnaire was sent to 565 radiotherapy centres included in the 1997 ESTRO directory. In this questionnaire the reimbursement strategy applied in the different centres was assessed, with respect to the use of a budget (departmental or hospital budget), case payment and/or fee-for-service reimbursement. The differences were analyzed according to country and to type and size of the radiotherapy centre. RESULTS: A total of 170 centres (86% of the responders) returned the questionnaire. Most frequent is budget reimbursement: some form of budget reimbursement is found in 69% of the centres, whereas 46% of the centres are partly reimbursed through fee-for-service and 35% through case payment. The larger the department, the more frequent the reimbursement through a budget or a case payment system and the less the importance of fee-for-service reimbursement (chi(2): P=0.0012; logit: P=0.0055). Whereas private centres are almost equally reimbursed by fee-for-service financing as by budget or case payment, radiotherapy departments in university hospitals receive the largest part of their financial resources through a budget or by case payment (83%) (chi(2): P=0.002; logit: P=0.0073). A correlation between the country and the radiotherapy reimbursement system was also demonstrated (P=0.002), radiotherapy centres in Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom being almost entirely reimbursed through a budget and/or case payment and centres in Germany and Switzerland mostly through a fee-for-service system. In budget and case payment financing lower total number of fractions and lower total dose (chi(2): P=0.003; logit: P=0.0120) as well as less shielding blocks (chi(2): P=0.003; logit: P=0.0066) are used. A same tendency is found for the use of isodose calculations and field set-up, but without being statistically significant (P=0.264 and P=0.061 res.). The type of the centre and the reimbursement modality influence the fractionation regimen independently (P=0.0274). This is not the case for the centre size and the reimbursement, which were found to exert correlated effects on the fractionation schedule (P=0.1042). CONCLUSION: Reimbursement systems seem to influence radiotherapy practice. One should therefore aim to develop reimbursement criteria that pursue to deliver, not only the best qualitative, but also the most cost-effective treatments to the patients.