Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is underdiagnosed in Canada. The diagnosis of FASD is not simple and currently, the recommendation is that a comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment of the individual be done. The purpose of this study was to estimate the annual cost of FASD diagnosis on Canadian society.
The diagnostic process breakdown was based on recommendations from the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Canadian Guidelines for Diagnosis. The per person cost of diagnosis was calculated based on the number of hours (estimated based on expert opinion) required by each specialist involved in the diagnostic process. The average rate per hour for each respective specialist was estimated based on hourly costs across Canada. Based on the existing clinical capacity of all FASD multidisciplinary clinics in Canada, obtained from the 2005 and 2011 surveys conducted by the Canada Northwest FASD Research Network, the number of FASD cases diagnosed per year in Canada was estimated. The per person cost of FASD diagnosis was then applied to the number of cases diagnosed per year in Canada in order to calculated the overall annual cost.
Using the most conservative approach, it was estimated that an FASD evaluation requires 32 to 47 hours for one individual to be screened, referred, admitted, and diagnosed with an FASD diagnosis, which results in a total cost of $3,110 to $4,570 per person. The total cost of FASD diagnostic services in Canada ranges from $3.6 to $5.2 million (lower estimate), up to $5.0 to $7.3 million (upper estimate) per year.
As a result of using the most conservative approach, the cost of FASD diagnostic services presented in the current study is most likely underestimated. The reasons for this likelihood and the limitations of the study are discussed.