Musculoskeletal conditions very costly

(17/06/2014) Healthcare costs associated with musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis and osteoporosis, are much higher than those associated with other conditions, a new study suggests.

Musculoskeletal is a term used to describe any condition that affects the muscles, bones and joints. There are over 150 known musculoskeletal conditions, the most common of which include lower back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.

Currently in Europe, up to 80% of all healthcare costs are related to chronic conditions and musculoskeletal conditions make up a big proportion of these. Dutch researchers decided to look into this further.

They assessed almost 9,000 people to see what conditions they had and what impact these conditions had on their overall healthcare costs. The participants had a range of conditions, including musculoskeletal, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, skin conditions and mental health problems.

Their total healthcare costs were calculated for a specified three-month period, adjusting for inflation when required.

Overall, one in five of the participants had a musculoskeletal condition and almost one in five had more than one condition.

The study found that healthcare costs were nearly 50% higher among people with musculoskeletal conditions compared to any other single occurring condition.

As expected, healthcare costs increased the more conditions a person had, however if one of these conditions was musculoskeletal in nature, this had a larger impact on total costs compared to other conditions.

For example, if a person had two non-musculoskeletal conditions, their healthcare costs were two times higher than a healthy person. However, if one of their conditions was musculoskeletal, healthcare costs were three times higher than a healthy person.

“It is clear that the cost of delivering care to those patients with musculoskeletal conditions is considerably higher than those with other diseases. In these economically challenging times, this research highlights a clear area of focus for policy makers where prioritisation of musculoskeletal disorders could result in longer-term cost efficiencies,” commented Dr Anjte Van Der Zee-Neuen of Maastricht University.

Details of these findings were presented at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress in Paris, France.

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