December 13th - Press release

Hospital costs estimated of occupational diseases not recognized by the Social Security

Hospital costs estimated of occupational diseases not recognized by the Social Security

Researchers led by Dr. Consol Serra have studied the exact, individualized cost of patients suffering from occupational diseases admitted to Hospital del Mar.

A new study has estimated the exact, individualized cost of healthcare for patients being treated in hospital for an occupational disease not recognized by the Social Security. The study was conducted by researchers from the Center for Research in Occupational Health (CiSAL) at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and the Occupational Health Service at Hospital del Mar.


As in other countries, Spain has two public health systems. On the one hand, the National Health Service, financed by taxes, covering all residents. On the other hand, the Social Security System is specific for occupational diseases, administered primarily by the mutual insurance companies that collaborate with the Social Security system, funded by contributions by employees and employers, which only offers protection to employees affiliated to the Social Security system.

Official recognition of occupational disease in Spain is characterized by widespread under-reporting, estimated at 70%. This entails limitations for studying its impact, a lack of financial compensation for the workers affected, the loss of opportunities for prevention, and a considerable burden on the National Health Service in terms of healthcare and associated costs that should be borne by the Social Security system.

In this article, published in the journal Archives of Occupational Health and Safety, researchers from the CiSAL have calculated for the first time in Spain the direct costs of healthcare generated at Hospital del Mar by patients with an occupational disease. "We have studied the cost to the National Health Service calculated on patient level, using highly accurate and complete information of our hospital's cost accounting system", explains Dr. Consol Serra, first author of the study, CiSAL coordinator and head of the Occupational Health Service at Hospital del Mar.

They identified a total of 524 healthcare provisions on 33 patients analysed. They calculated that the average cost of each healthcare provision is around  €5,500 per patient and reaches €15,000 in cancer patients. Hospital admissions and outpatient visits were the main contributors to healthcare costs.

Fernando Benavides, study coordinator explained that "if the results of the study are confirmed in future research, and according to a previous study that estimated that occupational diseases account for 3% of contacts with acute care hospitals in Catalonia, the total healthcare cost for occupational diseases in our hospital (some 30,000 cases per year) could reach approximately 5 million euros a year".

In the words of Benavides, "this healthcare provision should have been funded by the Social Security through the collaborating mutual insurance companies, rather than by the National Health System".

Consol Serra concludes that "our findings should encourage the recognition of occupational diseases and better coordination between the National Health Service and the Social Security system regarding the healthcare costs of these ailments".

Reference article

Serra C, Valiño-Carrete M, Cots F, Trapero-Bertran M, Benavides FG. Costes sanitarios de las enfermedades profesionales: análisis de una serie de pacientes de un hospital público. Arch Prev Riesgos Labor 2019; 22 (4): 171-175. DOI: 10.12961/aprl.2019.22.04.03.

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