Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Cancer Study Determines Cost in Patient Time

How much a disease costs society plays a role in social policy-making so getting the price right is a concern. What do we count in our costs? According to Len Lichtenfeld, MD of the American Cancer Society, “Cancer is more than just the dollars and cents for the medicines and the treatments and the doctors. It is also the lost opportunities for patients.” In a study to be published today in the Journal of National Cancer Institute, researchers examined the records of 763,000 cancer patients covered by Medicare 1995 to 2001 to determine the time people typically invest fighting 11 forms of cancer in the first year of diagnosis. They estimate, for example, the average hours a woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer spends is 368, those diagnosed with lung cancer, 272, and people with kidney cancer, 193. Patients with ovarian cancers lost the most time. The monetary value researchers attach to the time spent waiting in offices for doctors, scans, and tests, and having in patient and hospital treatment, is 2.3 billion dollars (US); this amount was determined by assigning an hourly wage of 15.23/hr, the median US wage rate in 2002. This time does not include that spent at home recovering from surgery or chemo, for example. The NY Times notes that the study did not look at the value of time spent by members of a patient’s family

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