Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Humanitarian Hand Surgery Missions According to WHO-CHOICE Thresholds


Journal of Hand Surgery


James Chang
Gloria Sue

Date Published: December 2018
Economic impact and cost effectiveness
Purpose: Hand surgery outreach programs to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) provide much-needed surgical care to the underserved populations and education to local providers for improved care. The cost-effectiveness of these surgical trips has not been studied despite a long history of such efforts. This study aimed to examine the economic impact of hand surgery trips to LMICs using data from the Touching Hands Project and ReSurge International. We hypothesized that hand surgery outreach would be cost-effective in LMICs.

Methods: We analyzed data on the cost of each trip and the surgical procedures performed. Using methods from the World Health Organization (WHO-Choosing Interventions That Are Cost-Effective [WHO-CHOICE]), we determined whether the procedures performed during the outreach trips would be cost-effective.

Results: For the 14 hand surgery trips, 378 patients received surgical treatment. Trips varied in the country where interventions were provided, the number of patients served, the severity of the conditions, and the total cost. The cost per disability-adjusted life-year averted ranged from United States (US)$222 to $1,525, all of which were very cost-effective according to WHO-CHOICE thresholds. The cost-effectiveness of global hand surgery was comparable to that of other medical interventions such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment in similar regions. We also identified a lack of standardized record keeping for these surgical trips.

Conclusions: Hand surgeries performed in LMICs are cost-effective based on WHO-CHOICE criteria. However, a standardized record-keeping method is needed for future research and longitudinal comparison. Understanding the economic impact of hand surgery global outreach is important to the success and sustainability of these efforts, both to allocate resources effectively and to identify areas for improvement.

Type of study/level of evidence: Economic/Decision Analysis III.