BACKGROUND: Improved understanding of the pre and postoperative trends in costs and healthcare resource utilization (HCRU) is needed to better inform patient expectations and aid in the development of strategies to minimize the significant healthcare burden associated with lumbar spine surgery.PURPOSE: Examine the time course of costs and HCRU in the two years preceding and following elective lumbar spine surgery for stenosis in a large national claims cohort STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: Retrospective analysis of an administrative claims database (IBM Marketscan Research Databases 2007-2015) PATIENT SAMPLE: Adult patients undergoing elective primary single-level lumbar surgery for stenosis with at least 2 years of continuous health plan enrollment pre- and postoperatively OUTCOME MEASURES: Functional measures, including monthly rates of HCRU (15 categories), monthly gross covered payments (including payments made by the health plan and deductibles and coinsurance paid by the patient) overall, by HCRU category, and by spine versus non-spine-related METHODS: All available patients were utilized for analysis of HCRU. For analysis of payments, only patients on non-capitated health plans providing accurate financial information were analyzed. Payments were converted to 2015 United States dollars using the medical care component of the consumer price index. Trends in payments and HCRU were plotted on a monthly basis pre- and post-surgery and assessed with regression models. Relationships with demographics, surgical factors, and comorbidities were assessed with multivariable repeated measures generalized estimating equations.RESULTS: Median monthly healthcare payments 2 years prior to surgery were $275 ($22, $868). Baseline HCRU at 2 years preoperatively was stable or only gradually rising (office visits, prescription drug use), but began an increasingly steep rise in many categories 6 to 12 months prior to surgery. Monthly payments began an increasingly steep rise 6 months prior to surgery, reaching a peak of $1,402 ($634, $2,827) in the month prior to surgery. This was driven by an increase in radiology, office visits, PT, injections, prescription medications, ER encounters, and inpatient admissions. Payments dropped dramatically immediately following surgery. Over the remainder of the 2 years, the median total payments declined only slightly, as a continued decline in spine-related payments was offset by gradually increased non-spine related payments as patients aged. By 2 years postoperatively, the percentage of patients using PT and injections returned to within 1% of the baseline levels observed 2 years preoperatively; however, spine-related prescription medication use remained elevated, as did other categories of HCRU (radiology, office visits, lab/diagnostic services, and also rare events such as inpatient admissions, ER encounters, and SNF/IRF). Patients with a fusion component to their surgeries had higher payments and HCRU preoperatively, and this did not resolve postoperatively. Variations in payments and HCRU were also evident among plan types, with patients on comprehensive medical plans-predominantly employer-sponsored supplemental Medicare coverage-utilizing more inpatient, ER, and inpatient rehabilitation & skilled nursing facilities. Patients on high-deductible plans had fewer payments and HCRU across all categories; however, we are unable to distinguish whether this is because they used fewer of these services or if they were paying for these services out of pocket without submitting to the payer. By 2 years postoperatively, 51% of patients had no spine-related monthly payments, while 33% had higher and 16% had lower monthly payments relative to 2 years preoperatively.CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to characterize time trends in direct healthcare payments and HCRU over an extended period preceding and following spine surgery. Differences among plan types potentially highlight disparities in access to care and plan-related financial mediators of patients' healthcare resource utilization.LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: III.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.spinee.2022.01.020
View details for PubMedID 35123048