Delayed otolaryngology referral for voice disorders increases health care costs.
BACKGROUND: Despite the accepted role of laryngoscopy in assessing patients with laryngeal/voice disorders, controversy surrounds its timing. This study sought to determine how increased time from first primary care to first otolaryngology outpatient visit affected the health care costs of patients with laryngeal/voice disorders. METHODS: Retrospective analysis of a large, national administrative claims database was performed. Patients had an International Classification of Diseases, 9(th) Revision-coded diagnosis of a laryngeal/voice disorder; initially saw a primary care physician and, subsequently, an otolaryngologist as outpatients; and provided 6 months of follow-up data after the first otolaryngology evaluation. The outpatient health care costs accrued from the first primary care outpatient visit through the 6 months after the first otolaryngology outpatient visit were determined. RESULTS: There were 260,095 unique patients who saw a primary care physician as an outpatient for a laryngeal/voice disorder, with 8999 (3.5%) subsequently seeing an otolaryngologist and with 6 months postotolaryngology follow-up data. A generalized linear regression model revealed that, compared with patients who saw an otolaryngologist ≤1 month after the first primary care visit, patients in the >1-month and ≤3-months and >3-months time periods had relative mean cost increases of $271.34 (95% confidence interval $115.95-$426.73) and $711.38 (95% confidence interval $428.43-$993.34), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Increased time from first primary care to first otolaryngology evaluation is associated with increased outpatient health care costs. Earlier otolaryngology examination may reduce health care expenditures in the evaluation and management of patients with laryngeal/voice disorders.
Cohen, SM; Kim, J; Roy, N; Courey, M
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