The lack of transparency in the methodology of unit cost estimation and the usage of confidential or undisclosed information prevents cost comparisons and makes the transferability of the results across countries difficult. The objective of this article is to compare the methodologies used in the estimation of the cost of a day case cataract extirpation that are described in the official and publicly available sources and to study how these translate into different unit cost estimates.
A literature review was conducted to identify the main sources of unit costs of cataract extirpation. A semi-structured questionnaire to obtain information on national costing methodologies was developed and sent to consortium partners in nine European countries. Additionally, publicly available sources of unit cost of cataract surgery in those countries included in the European Healthcare and Social Cost Database (EU HCSCD) were analysed.
The findings showed a considerable diversity across countries on unit costs varying from 432.5€ in Poland (minor degree of severity) to 3411.96€ in Portugal (major degree of severity). In addition, differences were found in the year of cost publication and on the level of detail of different types of cataract surgery. The unit of activity were Diagnosis-Related Groups in all countries except Slovenia. All unit costs include direct costs and variable overheads (except Germany where nursing costs are financed separately). Differences were identified in the type of fixed overheads included in unit costs. Methodological documents explaining the identification, measurement and evaluation of resources included in the unit costs, as well as use of appropriate cost drivers are publicly available only in England, Portugal and Sweden.
We can conclude that while unit costs of cataract extirpation are publicly available, the information on methodological aspects is scarce. This appears to pose a significant problem for cross-country comparisons of costs and transferability of results from one country to another.