Suction catheter usage and cost at long-term care hospitals in Republic of Korea

Kyung Hun Nam, Dae Hyun Kim, Won Ki Baek, Han Byul Lee, Joo Hyung Kim


A substantial number of Korean patients who require tracheostomy or oral suctioning are admitted to long-term care hospitals. However, under the Korea’s current daily fixed-rate reimbursement system, the cost of suction catheters is a considerable financial burden. To further discuss proper reimbursement policies for suction catheters in South Korean long-term care system, we examined the number and cost of suction catheters used in a long-term care hospital. This study is a single-center prospective cohort observational study that was conducted on patients admitted to the step-down unit at Ajou University Intermediate Care Hospital. Data of 47 patients were collected for this study. The average amount of suction catheter use per person was 529 during the 62 days of the study period. Daily suction catheter usage showed a statistically significant difference between patients with and without tracheostomy (10.5 ± 6.9 vs 2.1 ± 3.3, p-value < .001). It also showed a significant difference between patients who were diagnosed with or without pneumonia during hospitalization (12.3 ± 4.2 vs 5.5 ± 4.2, p-value < .001). The estimated cost of suction catheter usage for 30 days on a single patient who has tracheostomy was about 160,000 Korean won ($160), which was about 7.3% of the total monthly reimbursement. With the current reimbursement system, there is a potential risk of improper reuse and underuse of suction catheters. To improve respiratory care and prevent pneumonia, we suggest a separate reimbursement system for suction catheters for patients with tracheostomy in South Korean long-term care hospitals.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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