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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Explicit and implicit copayments for phototherapy: examining the cost of commuting

  • Author(s): Yentzer, Brad A
  • Gustafson, Cheryl J
  • Feldman, Steven R
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Background: Whereas phototherapy is a safe and cost-effective treatment modality for psoriasis, economic disincentives discourage its use, including both direct and indirect costs to the patient.

Purpose: To determine when it may be cost-effective for patients to purchase a home light unit versus driving to clinic for outpatient phototherapy sessions.

Methods: Estimates of expenses associated with 3 months of outpatient phototherapy were determined and compared to the price of a home phototherapy unit. Factors examined included the cost of gasoline (based on the national average), fuel efficiency of the vehicle, cost of owning and operating a motor vehicle, lost wages, and copayments.

Results: The cost for a standard 6-bulb narrowband UVB home unit is approximately $2600. Direct and indirect expenses imposed on patients increase with distance travelled to the dermatologist. If a patient lives 20 or more miles away from the dermatologist, the expenses associated with travel can total more than the out of pocket expense of purchasing a home phototherapy unit.

Limitations: This small analysis only accounted for the first 3 months of treatment and likely underestimates the total costs that patients would experience over a lifetime of treatment.

Conclusions: It may be beneficial for physicians to educate patients on the cost-burden of in-office versus home phototherapy because patients can use these parameters to determine which option would be more cost-effective for them.

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