The burden of rare diseases is important for healthcare planning but difficult to estimate. This has been facilitated by the development of ORPHAcodes, a comprehensive classification and coding system for rare diseases developed by the international consortium Orphanet, with cross-references to the 10th version of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10). A recent study in Western Australia made use of this cross-referencing to identify rare diseases-related admissions in health administrative datasets. Such methodology was adopted in Hong Kong, which has a population of 7 million comprising of 92% ethnic Chinese, with over 80% of admissions taking place in the public hospitals and available for review from the local public healthcare database.
Our objective was to identify the inpatient healthcare burden of rare diseases in Hong Kong. We extracted admission records of all patients coded with one or more of the 1084 ICD-10 codes cross referenced with 467 ORPHAcodes during the study period from 1st January 2005 to 31st December 2016. We further analysed rare disease-related inpatient healthcare cost using a subset of patients admitted during 1st April 2015 – 31st March 2016. A total number of 546,673 admissions were identified, representing 3.2% of total admissions during the study period. By the end of the study, 109,535 patients were alive, representing 1.5% of the overall population. Prevalence of rare diseases was found to be 1 in 67 in the Hong Kong population. The most common rare disease category in the paediatric age group was ‘rare developmental defect during embryogenesis’; whereas that amongst adults was ‘rare haematologic disease’. The aforementioned subset of patients accounted for 330,091 inpatient-days, placing the estimated total inpatient cost for rare disease population at HKD$1,594,339,530 i.e. 4.3% of total inpatient cost in 2015–2016.
Cross referencing between ICD-10 and ORPHAcodes may be adopted in different healthcare datasets for international comparison. Despite differences in the prevalence of individual disease, the disparity between rare disease prevalence (1.5%) and associated inpatient cost (4.3%) in Hong Kong reflects the importance of rare diseases in healthcare policies.