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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1750-1172-9-36) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
NJH contributed to the design of the study, data acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the data and, drafted the manuscript. DF critically reviewed the manuscript for clinical content and contributed to data acquisition. PR critically reviewed the manuscript for clinical content. HS critically reviewed the manuscript for clinical content. PVA critically reviewed the manuscript for clinical content. AJ critically reviewed the manuscript for clinical content. YZ conceived the study, contributed to the analysis and interpretation of the data and, reviewed the manuscript for intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Rare chronic diseases of childhood are often complex and associated with multiple health issues. Such conditions present significant demands on health services, but the degree of these demands is seldom reported. This study details the utilisation of hospital services and associated costs in a single case of surfactant protein C deficiency, an example of childhood interstitial lung disease.
Hospital records and case notes for a single patient were reviewed. Costs associated with inpatient services were extracted from a paediatric hospital database. Actual costs were compared to cost estimates based on both disease/procedure-related cost averages for inpatient hospital episodes and a recently implemented Australian hospital funding algorithm (activity-based funding).
To age 8 years and 10 months the child was a hospital inpatient for 443 days over 32 admissions. A total of 298 days were spent in paediatric intensive care. Investigations included 58 chest x-rays, 9 bronchoscopies, 10 lung function tests and 11 sleep studies. Comprehensive disease management failed to prevent respiratory decline and a lung transplant was required. Costs of inpatient care at three tertiary hospitals totalled $966,531 (Australian dollars). Disease- and procedure-related cost averages underestimated costs of paediatric inpatient services for this patient by 68%. An activity-based funding algorithm that is currently being adopted in Australia estimated the cost of hospital health service provision with more accuracy.
Health service usage and inpatient costs for this case of rare chronic childhood respiratory disease were substantial. This case study demonstrates that disease- and procedure-related cost averages are insufficient to estimate costs associated with rare chronic diseases that require complex management. This indicates that the health service use for similar episodes of hospital care is greater for children with rare diseases than other children. The impacts of rare chronic childhood diseases should be considered when planning resources for paediatric health services.