Variation in the utilization of medical services is a very important issue in cost containment and quality assurance of health care. Practice variation directly affects health care expenditure especially in fee-for-service system, which is the payment system of health insurance in Korea. In addition to cost issue it is generally accepted that variations in medical practice and the cost of inpatient care suggest the possibility of inappropriate quality of care. This study is to closely examine the patterne and degrees of variation in cost structure of inpatient care among types of hospital and individual hospitals in some tracer diseases, and also to inquire into the service items which contribute much to the variation of total medical care cost. Foru common diseases, i.e. Cesarean Section, appendectomy, cataract extraction and pediatric pneumonia, were selected as tracer diseases. In most tracer diseases there were statistically significant differences in total medical care cost among hospitals in same type of hospital as well as among types of hospital(p<0.01). When total medical care cost were subdivided into the types of service, cost of medication and diagnostic examination varied the most prominenly. When the cost of medication were subdivided again, cost of parenteral antibiotics showed the most prominent variation. Of total medical care cost, medication was most contributory to the variation of total medical care cost(58.1~82.3%), and cost of antibiotics was most contributory to the variation of medication cost(63.9~92.2%). The results of study implicated that reducing the variation of medication may plays a significant role in containing the cost of inpatient care. In order to sort out the factors affecting practice variations including drug prescription pattes further researches are required.
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