Centralising acute stroke care within clinical practice in the Netherlands: Lower bounds of the causal impact

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Background: Authors in previous studies demonstrated that centralising acute stroke care is associated with an increased chance of timely Intra-Venous Thrombolysis (IVT) and lower costs compared to care at community hospitals. In this study we estimated the lower bound of the causal impact of centralising IVT on health and cost outcomes within clinical practice in the Northern Netherlands. Methods: We used observational data from 267 and 780 patients in a centralised and decentralised system, respectively. The original dataset was linked to the hospital information systems. Literature on healthcare costs and Quality of Life (QoL) values up to 3 months post-stroke was searched to complete the input. We used Synthetic Control Methods (SCM) to counter selection bias. Differences in SCM outcomes included 95% Confidence Intervals (CI). To deal with unobserved heterogeneity we focused on recently developed methods to obtain the lower bounds of the causal impact. Results: Using SCM to assess centralising acute stroke 3 months post-stroke revealed healthcare savings of $US 1735 (CI, 505 to 2966) while gaining 0.03 (CI, - 0.01 to 0.73) QoL per patient. The corresponding lower bounds of the causal impact are $US 1581 and 0.01. The dominant effect remained stable in the deterministic sensitivity analyses with $US 1360 (CI, 476 to 2244) as the most conservative estimate. Conclusions: In this study we showed that a centralised system for acute stroke care appeared both cost-saving and yielded better health outcomes. The results are highly relevant for policy makers, as this is the first study to address the issues of selection and unobserved heterogeneity in the evaluation of centralising acute stroke care, hence presenting causal estimates for budget decisions.




Freriks, R. D., Mierau, J. O., Buskens, E., Pizzo, E., Luijckx, G. J., Van Der Zee, D. J., & Lahr, M. M. H. (2020). Centralising acute stroke care within clinical practice in the Netherlands: Lower bounds of the causal impact. BMC Health Services Research, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-020-4959-3

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