National costs and resource requirements of external beam radiotherapy: A time-driven activity-based costing model from the ESTRO-HERO project
Background: The Health Economics in Radiation Oncology (ESTRO-HERO) project aims to provide a knowledge base for health economics in European radiotherapy. A cost-accounting model, providing data on national resource requirements and costs of external beam radiotherapy (EBRT), was developed.
Materials and methods: Time-driven activity-based costing (TD-ABC) was applied from the healthcare provider perspective at national level. TD-ABC allocates resource costs to treatment courses through the activities performed, based on time estimates.
Results: The model is structured in three layers. The central layer, EBRT-Core, accounts for EBRT care-pathway activities and follows TD-ABC allocation principles. Activities supporting radiation oncology (RO) (RO-Support) and multidisciplinary oncology (Beyond-EBRT) follow standard allocation principles. To demonstrate the model's capabilities, a dataset was constructed for the hypothetical country Europalia, based on published evidence on resources and treatments, whereas time estimates were expert opinions. Applying the TD-ABC model to this example, treatment delivery activities represent 68.4% of the costs; treatment preparation 31.6%. The cost per course shows large variation for different indications, techniques, and fractionation schedules, ranging between €838 and €7193. Resource utilization was estimated to be within the available capacity. Scenario analyses on changes in fractionation and treatment complexity are presented. The ESTRO-HERO TD-ABC tool can model EBRT costs and resource requirements. While the Europalia example illustrates its potential, the results cannot be generalized nor used as a proxy for national evidence. Only real-world data, tailored to the specificities of individual countries, will support National Radiation Oncology Societies with investment planning and access to innovative radiotherapy.