Background: We assessed variations in hospitalization parameters and costs among asthmatic children in four Nordic countries by geographic location and age groups.
Methods: Cross-sectional, county-level aggregate data on asthma-related hospitalizations in 1999, obtained from public national databases for children < 15 years old from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland, together with country-specific asthma management cost were used to estimate the incidence of first hospital admission (per 1,000), length of hospital stay (LOS), and hospitalization cost. Longitudinal patient-specific data from 1998/1999 were used to calculate the relative hazard of readmission (RHR) using a multivariate Cox proportional hazards model.
Results: Nordic incidence of first hospital admission in 1999 was 2.17 per 1,000 children, readmission was noted in 16% of the patients, mean LOS was 2.64 days, and total hospitalization cost was almost $14 million. Hospitalization incidence, RHR, and costs were significantly higher in children < 5 years old compared with school children 6 to 14 years old. Hospital LOS, incidence of first hospital admission, and cost per child were the highest in Denmark, though RHR did not differ significantly from Sweden.
Conclusions: Large variations in all parameters were observed between and within countries. Given the similarities among the four countries studied, these results may, among other reasons, indicate different efficiencies of the various asthma management plans between and within them. The presented measures of hospitalization patterns could prove to be valuable quality-of-care measures to guide further improvements in asthma management.