Background: Physician-led home visit care with medical teams (Zaitaku care) has been developed on a national scale to support those who wish to stay at home at the end of life, and promote a system of community-based integrated care in Japan. Medical care at the end of life can be expensive, and is an urgent socioeconomic issue for aging societies. However medical costs of physician-led home visits care have not been well studied. We compared the medical costs of Zaitaku care and hospital care at the end of life in a rapidly aging community in a rural area in Japan. Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed to compare the total medical costs during patients' final days of life (30 days or less) between Zaitaku care and hospital care from September 2012 to August 2013 in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. Results: Thirty four patients died at home under Zaitaku care, and 72 patients died in the hospital during this period. The average daily cost of care during the last 30 days did not differ significantly between the two groups. Although Zaitaku care costs were higher than hospital care costs in the short-term (≦10 days, Zaitaku care $371.2 vs. Hospital care $202.0, p = 0.492), medical costs for Zaitaku care in the long-term care (≥30 days) were less than that of hospital care ($155.8 vs. $187.4, p = 0.055). Conclusions: Medical costs of Zaitaku care were less compared with hospital care if incorporated early for long term care, but it was high if incorporated late for short term care. For long term care, medical costs for Zaitaku care was 16.7% less than for hospitalization at the end of life. This physician-led home visit care model should be an available option for patients who wish to die at home, and may be beneficial financially over time.
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