Objective Chronic pain in children and adolescents gives rise to high healthcare costs. Successful treatment is supposed to reduce the economic burden. The objective of this study was to determine the changes in healthcare utilization and expenditures from 1 year before (Pre) intensive interdisciplinary pain treatment (IIPT) to the first (Post 1) and second (Post 2) years after discharge in a sample of paediatric chronic pain patients.
Methods Claims data from one statutory health insurance company were analysed for 119 children and adolescents (mean age = 15.3, 68.9% female) who sought IIPT at the German Paediatric Pain Centre. Costs incurred for inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, medication, remedies and aids were compared before treatment and 2 years after discharge. Healthcare utilization was compared using Wilcoxon signed-rank test, and expenditures using trimmed means and the Yuen’s t-test.
Results Overall costs were significantly lower in the 2 years after IIPT compared to before IIPT (Pre: 3,543€, Post 1:2,681€, Post 2:1937€ (trimmed means)). Healthcare utilization changed significantly; hospitalizations decreased in the years after discharge, while psychotherapies stayed stable in the year after discharge but lessened in the second year.
Conclusion The results of this study support prior findings on the high economic burden of paediatric chronic pain. IIPT may contribute to a transition in healthcare utilization from somatic-focused treatments to more psychological treatments. Overall costs were reduced as soon as the first year after discharge and decreased even further in the second year.
Significance This study analyses original claims data from paediatric chronic pain patients in the year before and up to 2 years after intensive interdisciplinary pain treatment in a specialized paediatric pain centre. The analysis of long-term data reveals a continuous cost reduction after intensive interdisciplinary pain treatment and a change in the subsequent outpatient treatment.