We discuss why Fibromyalgia is expensive for both the patient and the health care system.
Fibromyalgia is the third most common rheumatic disorder after lower back pain and osteoarthritis. Approximately 3-6% of the world’s population, or 200 to 400 million people, have fibromyalgia and face significant financial stressors attached to the disease. Continue reading as we explain the extent of the disease’s financial burden, through new research surrounding direct and indirect costs, taken on by the patient and healthcare institutions.
Due to its complex behaviours and poor diagnosis procedure, right from the moment symptoms begin, fibromyalgia is an expensive condition. This financial burden is faced by both the patient and the healthcare system, since fibromyalgia patients use twice the health services and spend about twice as much money towards their illness, compared to patients with health conditions that don’t involve widespread pain, a Canadian study reports.
Financial Impact on Healthcare Institution
The information above is in line with UK reports compiled, from analysing 2,260 newly diagnosed fibromyalgia patients, to determine the impact pinpointing fibromyalgia has on the UK healthcare system. It reveals, by the time of diagnosis, a fibromyalgia patient has attended 25 medical appointments and takes 11 prescriptions per year. This number decreases, following their diagnosis, to around 12 annual doctor visits and 4.5 prescriptions, however, it doesn’t stay at this low level for long. After 2-3 years the amount of support a fibromyalgia patient requires, from healthcare services, spikes back up to par or surpassing the level prior to being diagnosed. This same UK study highlights visit rates highest for depression, followed by fatigue, chest pain, headache and sleep disturbances. It’s this range in symptoms, from fibromyalgia and it’s common coinciding conditions, that prompt patients to seek aid from healthcare services.
We further researched the topic by reviewing a study stemming out of America. It utilised a US health insurance database to generate a sample of 33,176 newly diagnosed fibromyalgia patients and a comparison group, comprised of an identical number of patients that mimicked the age and sex of the fibromyalgia subjects, to analyse the characteristics and healthcare costs fibromyalgia has over a one-year period. Results tallied, the median cost a fibromyalgia patient puts on the healthcare system is $4247 (£2,991) annually, fivefolds higher than that of the comparison group who spend just $822 (£579) per year.
Direct Costs for Fibromyalgia Patients
Extensive research, outlined above, is available for the public to access and reflect on the financial impact fibromyalgia has on various healthcare institutions. Nevertheless, we found minimal information available to estimate the amount a fibromyalgia patient personally pays towards their disease. It’s hard to measure and generalise this amount, considering the wide spectrum of fibromyalgia symptoms, meaning the type and extent of care a fibromyalgia sufferer requires can vary per patient and change over time. Plus, popular and recurrent expenses are often unexpected, experimental or could be deemed unnecessary. This includes costs attached to private health care, therapy, medication, pain management tools, speciality foods, fitness programs, and so on. There’s not one direct form of treatment for fibromyalgia, therefore, patients are more inclined to try a mix of coping methods, which add up and may or may not be beneficial. Plus, the amount they’re willing to dish out, reflects the severity of their condition, as written in the article, The comparative economic burden of mild, moderate, and severe fibromyalgia, first published in Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy. The statistics stem out of a study that examined 203 fibromyalgia patients from 20 American community-based physician offices. Subjects completed a 106 item questionnaire and reported these three factors, listed below, as the leading direct and indirect expenses tied to their fibromyalgia:
- Hours of unpaid informal caregiver time because of the inability to perform daily activities (e.g. housework, child care)
- Out-of-pocket expenses for medical and nonmedical services
- And lost productivity related to fibromyalgia
Meanwhile, doctors regularly track and document their patient’s current health status using the fibromyalgia impact survey. The tool, originated in 1980, is the most frequently used technique for health professionals to take notice of new symptoms, assess and recommend applicable treatments. Symptom specific remedies, like these gadgets, tricks and tactics can certainly be expensive, but a patient’s biggest financial implication is most frequently attributed to a loss in wages, as a result of time away from work.
Watch this space, as next week we’re set to take a deeper look into the financial implications a reduced earning, as a result of work absence from fibromyalgia, can create. In the meantime, visit the case study section of our website to find out how Brian Barr has assisted fibromyalgia sufferers with accident and insurance claims to help balance out financial losses as a result of fibromyalgia.
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