The resource utilisation of medically unexplained physical symptoms
Lee, K.; Johnson, M.H.; Harris, J.; Sundram, F.
Sage Open Medicine 4: 2050312116666217
As patients with medically unexplained physical symptoms may present frequently to hospital settings and receive potentially unnecessary investigations and treatments, we aimed to assess the frequency and type of medically unexplained physical symptoms presentations to clinical services and estimate the associated direct healthcare costs. This study was undertaken at the largest district health board in New Zealand. All patients with a diagnosed presentation of medically unexplained physical symptoms in 2013 were identified using the district health board's clinical coding system. The clinical records (medical and psychiatric) of 49 patients were examined in detail to extricate all medically unexplained physical symptoms-related secondary care activity within 6 months before or after their medically unexplained physical symptoms presentation. Standardised national costing methodology was used to calculate the associated healthcare costs. In all, 49% of patients attended hospital settings at least twice during 2013. The majority of presentations were for neurological or respiratory concerns. The total cost for the sample was GBP89,636 (median: GBP1,221). Costs were most significant in the areas of inpatient admissions and emergency care. Medically unexplained physical symptoms result in frequent presentations to hospital settings. The costs incurred are substantial and comparable to the costs of chronic medical conditions with identifiable pathology. Improving recognition and management of medically unexplained physical symptoms has potential to offer more appropriate and cost-effective healthcare outcomes.