Time-Driven Activity-based Costing for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: A Comparison to Traditional Accounting Methods

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Arthrosc Sports Med Rehabil


Purpose: The primary purpose of this study was to compare the cost of care of one of the most common sports medicine surgical procedures, anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR), using the time-driven activity-based costing (TDABC) method to traditional accounting methods such as activity-based costing (ABC). Our secondary purpose was to identify the main drivers of the cost of ACLR using both of these techniques.

Methods: A process map of ACLR was constructed through direct observation in the clinical setting according to established techniques to identify drivers of fixed, direct variable, and indirect costs. An episode of care consisted of each step in the surgical process from admission to discharge. Personnel costs were combined with the process map to determine the cost drivers and overall cost of the procedure. The cost generated from the TDABC method was compared with the cost from our institution's internal accounting system, which used an ABC method.

Results: The total cost of ACLR was $5,242.25 when using TDABC versus $10,318 when using the traditional ABC method. The largest difference between the 2 methods was within the domain of direct variable costs.

Conclusions: When compared with TDABC, the hospital's traditional cost-accounting estimate for ACLR is nearly twice as costly. These findings highlight the variability of cost calculation for the same clinical episode between the 2 accounting methods. For the traditional accounting method, the direct variable cost was the main cost driver, whereas for the TDABC method, the direct fixed cost was the main cost driver.

Clinical Relevance: This study is important because it elucidates important cost drivers for one of the most common sports medicine orthopaedic surgical procedures and attempts to identify the true overall cost of the procedure.

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