A Cost-Analysis of an Interdisciplinary Pediatric Chronic Pain Clinic

Published in: The Journal of Pain [Epub October 2017]. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2017.09.008

Posted on RAND.org on December 14, 2017

by Nicole E. Mahrer, Jeffrey I. Gold, Michael Luu, Patricia M. Herman

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Chronic pain is characterized by high rates of functional impairment, health care utilization, and associated costs. Research supports the use of comprehensive, interdisciplinary treatment approaches. However, many hospitals hesitate to offer this full range of services, especially to Medi-Cal/Medicaid patients whose services are reimbursed at low rates. This cost analysis examines the effect on hospital and insurance costs of patients' enrollment in an interdisciplinary pediatric pain clinic, which includes medication management, psychotherapy, biofeedback, acupuncture, and massage. Retrospective hospital billing data (inpatient/emergency department/outpatient visits, and associated costs/reimbursement) from 191 consecutively enrolled Medi-Cal/Medicaid pediatric patients with chronic pain were used to compare 1-year costs before initiating pain clinic services with costs 1 year after. Pain clinic patients had significantly fewer emergency department visits, fewer inpatient stays, and lower associated billing, compared with the year before without interdisciplinary pain management services. Cost savings to the hospital of $36,228 per patient per year and to insurance of $11,482 per patient per year were found even after pain clinic service billing was included. Analyses of pre-pain clinic costs indicate that these cost reductions were likely because of clinic participation. Findings provide economic support for the use of interdisciplinary care to treat pediatric chronic pain on an outpatient basis from a hospital and insurance perspective. This article presents a cost analysis of an interdisciplinary pediatric pain outpatient clinic. Findings support the incorporation of a comprehensive treatment approach that can reduce costs from a hospital and insurance perspective over the course of just 1 year.

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