An Analysis of 1-Year Charges for Head and Neck Cancer: Targets for Value-Based Interventions

Head and Neck Cancer

Pang J, et al. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2020.


OBJECTIVE: To identify the dominant clinical factors associated with increased 1-year charges in treating head and neck cancer.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective review.

SETTING: Single academic institution.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed 1-year charges for 196 consecutive patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) who were treated exclusively at our institution. We analyzed charges by department as well as factors associated with increased charges per multivariable regression.

RESULTS: The mean age was 59.6 years (SD, 14.9). Most of the population was male (64%), white (70%), and commercially insured (46%). The most common primary sites were the oropharynx (25%; 76%, HPV positive), skin (19%), and thyroid (17%). Eighty-three percent of total charges were due to standard-of-care treatment for HNC: surgery ($16 million), radiation therapy ($22 million), or chemotherapy ($11 million). The median total charge per patient was $212,484 (interquartile range, $78,630-$475,823). Multivariable regression demonstrated that the following were associated with increased charges: nasopharynx subsite ($250,929 [95% CI, $93,290-$408,569]; effect size in US dollars, P = .002), advanced stage (American Joint Committee on Cancer, seventh edition; $80,331 [$22,726-$137,936], P = .007), therapeutic surgery ($281,893 [$117,371-$446,415], P = .001), chemotherapy ($183,331 [$125,497-$241,165], P < .001), radiation ($203,397 [$143,454-$263,341], P < .001), surgical complication requiring return to the operating room ($147,247 [$37,240-$257,254], P = .009), emergency department visits ($89,050 [$23,811-$154,289], P = .008), and admissions ($140,894 [$82,895-$198,893], P < .001; constant, -$233,927 [-$410,790 to -$57,064]). The top quartile accrued 55% of the total charges.

CONCLUSION: Radiation, followed by surgery and chemotherapy, were the most expensive components of HNC care. In this analysis, we identified the dominant clinical factors associated with increased charges.