A challenge to all

A primer on inter-country differences of high-need, high-cost patients

Funded by

The Health Foundation Logo

19 June 2019

Published journal: Plos One

Background

Across countries, a small group of patients accounts for the majority of health care spending. These patients are more likely than other patients to experience problems with quality and safety in their care, suggesting that efforts targeting efficiency and quality among this population might have significant payoffs for health systems. Better understanding of similarities and differences in patient characteristics and health care use in different countries may ultimately inform further efforts to improve care for HNHC patients in these health systems.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional descriptive study using one year of patient-level data on high-cost patients in seven high-income OECD member countries. Countries were selected based on availability of detailed information (large enough samples of claims, administrative, and survey data of high-cost patients). We studied concentration of spending among high-cost patients, characteristics of high-cost patients, and per capita spending on high-cost patients.

Findings

Cost-concentration of the top 5% of patients varied across countries, from 41% in Japan to 60% in Canada, driven primarily by variation in the top 1% of spenders. In general, high-cost patients were more likely to be female (57.7% on average), had a significant number of multi-morbidities (up to on average 10 major diagnostic categories (ICD chapters), and had a lower socioeconomic status. Characteristics of high-cost patients varied as well: median age ranged from 62 in the Netherlands to 75 in Germany and the difference in socioeconomic status is particularly stark in the US. Lastly, utilization, particularly for inpatient care, varied with an average number of inpatient days ranging from 6.6 nights (US) to 97.7 nights in Japan.

Interpretation

In this descriptive study, there is substantial variation in the cost concentration, characteristics, and per capita spending on high-cost patient populations across high-income countries. Differences in the way that health systems are structured likely explains some of this variation, which suggests the potential of cross-system learning opportunities. Our findings highlight the need for further studies including comparable performance metrics and institutional analysis.

Citation

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217353

You might also like...

Press release

Health and care services face a perfect storm of pressures in the coming months

Health Foundation response to NHS England monthly performance stats for September.

Press release

Press release

More strategic, long-term investment needed across government for a healthy and prosperous nation

New Health Foundation report shows government is failing to invest in the nation’s health by focusing on short-term spending.

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q Community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more