Radiotherapy and oncology : journal of the European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology vol:55 issue:3 pages:251-62
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Escalating health care expenses urge governments towards cost containment. More accurate data on the precise costs of health care interventions are needed. We performed an aggregate cost calculation of radiation therapy departments and treatments and discussed the different cost components. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The costs of a radiotherapy department were estimated, based on accreditation norms for radiotherapy departments set forth in the Belgian legislation. RESULTS: The major cost components of radiotherapy are the cost of buildings and facilities, equipment, medical and non-medical staff, materials and overhead. They respectively represent around 3, 30, 50, 4 and 13% of the total costs, irrespective of the department size. The average cost per patient lowers with increasing department size and optimal utilization of resources. Radiotherapy treatment costs vary in a stepwise fashion: minor variations of patient load do not affect the cost picture significantly due to a small impact of variable costs. With larger increases in patient load however, additional equipment and/or staff will become necessary, resulting in additional semi-fixed costs and an important increase in costs. A sensitivity analysis of these two major cost inputs shows that a decrease in total costs of 12-13% can be obtained by assuming a 20% less than full time availability of personnel; that due to evolving seniority levels, the annual increase in wage costs is estimated to be more than 1%; that by changing the clinical life-time of buildings and equipment with unchanged interest rate, a 5% reduction of total costs and cost per patient can be calculated. More sophisticated equipment will not have a very large impact on the cost (+/-4000 BEF/patient), provided that the additional equipment is adapted to the size of the department. That the recommendations we used, based on the Belgian legislation, are not outrageous is shown by replacing them by the USA Blue book recommendations. Depending on the department size, costs in our model would then increase with 14-36%. CONCLUSION: We showed that cost information can be used to analyze the precise financial consequences of changes in routine clinical practice in radiotherapy. Comparing the cost data with the prevailing reimbursement may reveal inconsistencies and stimulate to develop improved financing systems.