Background: Limited information exists on the best way to organise stroke rehabilitation after hospital discharge and the relative costs of such services.
Objective: To review the evidence of the cost effectiveness of services that accelerate hospital discharge and provide home-based rehabilitation for patients with acute stroke.
Methods: A systematic review with economic analysis of published randomised clinical trials (available to March 2001) comparing early hospital discharge and domiciliary rehabilitation with usual care in patients with stroke was conducted. From included studies, data were extracted on study quality; major clinical outcomes including hospital stay, death, institutionalisation, disability, and readmission rates; and resource use associated with hospital stay, rehabilitation, and community services. The resources were priced using Australian dollars ($A) healthcare costs. The outcomes and costs of the new intervention were compared with standard care.
Results: Seven published trials involving 1277 patients (54% men; mean age 73 years) were identified. The pooled data showed that overall, a policy of early hospital discharge and domiciliary rehabilitation reduced total length of stay by 13 days [95% confidence interval (CI): -19 to -7 days]. There was no significant effect on mortality (odds ratio = 0.95; 95% CI: 0.65 to 1.38) or other clinical outcomes making a cost minimisation analysis for the economic analysis appropriate. The overall mean costs were approximately 15% lower for the early discharge intervention [$A16 016 ($US9941) versus $A18 350 ($US11 390)] compared with standard care.
Conclusions: A policy of early hospital discharge and home-based rehabilitation for patients with stroke may reduce the use of hospital beds without compromising clinical outcomes. Our analysis shows this service to be a cost saving alternative to conventional in-hospital stroke rehabilitation for an important subgroup of patients with stroke-related disability.
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