Background: An early supported discharge service (ESD) appears to be a promising alternative to conventional care. The aim of this trial was to compare the use of health services and costs with traditional stroke care during a one-year follow-up. Methods: Three hundred and twenty patients were randomly allocated either to ordinary stroke unit care or stroke unit care combined with ESD which was coordinated by a mobile team. The use of all health services was recorded prospectively; its costs were measured as service costs and represent a combination of calculated average costs and tariffs. Hospital expenses were measured as costs per inpatient day and adjusted for the DRG. Results: There was a reduction in average number of inpatient days at 52 weeks in favour of the ESD group (p = 0.012), and a non-significant reduction in total mean service costs in the ESD group (EUR 18,937/EUR 21,824). ESD service seems to be most cost-effective for patients with a moderate stroke. Conclusion: Acute stroke unit care combined with an ESD programme may reduce the length of institutional stay without increasing the costs of outpatient rehabilitation compared with traditional stroke care.
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