Resource Utilization

The health service costs associated with somatoform illness are considerable and are not simply attributable to the ubiquity of these conditions. Rather, patients with somatoform illness often consume a disproportionate amount of resources compared to other service users. Indeed, it has been estimated that the health care costs of patients meeting criteria for somatization disorder are nine times the U.S. national average. The bulk of resource utilization by these patients is on diagnostic tests rather than psychiatric services. The frequency of general practitioner and emergency room visits, as well as the number and length of hospital admissions, also tends to be elevated in these patients. In general, the level of resource use increases with the severity and chronicity of unexplained symptoms. Improved physician recognition of these conditions and the limitation of needless investigations could significantly reduce the health care costs of this group of patients.

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