Impact of Noncommunicable Disease Multimorbidity on Healthcare Utilisation and Out-Of-Pocket Expenditures in Middle-Income Countries: Cross Sectional Analysis

John Tayu Lee, Fozia Hamid, Sanghamitra Pati, Rifat Atun, Christopher Millett
PloS One 2015, 10 (7): e0127199

BACKGROUND: The burden of non-communicable disease (NCDs) has grown rapidly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where populations are ageing, with rising prevalence of multimorbidity (more than two co-existing chronic conditions) that will significantly increase pressure on already stretched health systems. We assess the impact of NCD multimorbidity on healthcare utilisation and out-of-pocket expenditures in six middle-income countries: China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa.

METHODS: Secondary analyses of cross-sectional data from adult participants (>18 years) in the WHO Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) 2007-2010. We used multiple logistic regression to determine socio-demographic correlates of multimorbidity. Association between the number of NCDs and healthcare utilisation as well as out-of-pocket spending was assessed using logistic, negative binominal and log-linear models.

RESULTS: The prevalence of multimorbidity in the adult population varied from 3.9% in Ghana to 33.6% in Russia. Number of visits to doctors in primary and secondary care rose substantially for persons with increasing numbers of co-existing NCDs. Multimorbidity was associated with more outpatient visits in China (coefficient for number of NCD = 0.56, 95% CI = 0.46, 0.66), a higher likelihood of being hospitalised in India (AOR = 1.59, 95% CI = 1.45, 1.75), higher out-of-pocket expenditures for outpatient visits in India and China, and higher expenditures for hospital visits in Russia. Medicines constituted the largest proportion of out-of-pocket expenditures in persons with multimorbidity (88.3% for outpatient, 55.9% for inpatient visit in China) in most countries.

CONCLUSION: Multimorbidity is associated with higher levels of healthcare utilisation and greater financial burden for individuals in middle-income countries. Our study supports the WHO call for universal health insurance and health service coverage in LMICs, particularly for vulnerable groups such as the elderly with multimorbidity.

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