Costing methodology and key drivers of health care costs within economic analyses in musculoskeletal community and primary care services: a systematic review of the literature

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Roanna Burgess
  • James Hall
  • Annette Bishop
  • Martyn Lewis
  • Jonathan Hill

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Keele University


Background: Identifying variation in musculoskeletal service costs requires the use of specific standardized metrics. There has been a large focus on costing, efficiency, and standardized metrics within the acute musculoskeletal setting, but far less attention in primary care and community settings.

Objectives: To (a) assess the quality of costing methods used within musculoskeletal economic analyses based primarily in primary and community settings and (b) identify which cost variables are the key drivers of musculoskeletal health care costs within these settings.

Methods: Medline, AMED, EMBASE, CINAHL, HMIC, BNI, and HBE electronic databases were searched for eligible studies. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed quality of costing methods using an established checklist.

Results: Twenty-two studies met the review inclusion criteria. The majority of studies demonstrated moderate- to high-quality costing methods. Costing issues included studies failing to fully justify the economic perspective, and not distinguishing between short- and long-run costs. Highest unit costs were hospital admissions, outpatient visits, and imaging. Highest mean utilization were the following: general practitioner (GP) visits, outpatient visits, and physiotherapy visits. Highest mean costs per patient were GP visits, outpatient visits, and physiotherapy visits.

Conclusion: This review identified a number of key resource use variables that are driving musculoskeletal health care costs in the community/primary care setting. High utilization of these resources (rather than high unit cost) appears to be the predominant factor increasing mean health care costs. There is, however, need for greater detail with capturing these key cost drivers, to further improve the accuracy of costing information.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of primary care & community health
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020


  • cost drivers, costing, economic analysis, musculoskeletal health