The investigators examined the demographic and clinical factors associated with the collection experience in a series of 786 patients who were treated in an urban hospital emergency department (ED) but not admitted to the hospital. They found that 57% of the total net charge of $150,489 had been paid within 180 days. This rate can be compared with an average inpatient collection rate of 85% at 180 days. Seven factors were found to account for the collection rate variation, making up 38.4% of the total variation. Age, gender, primary diagnosis, season of visit, time of arrival, and residence were not found to be main contributors. Insufficient collection rates may be an indication that EDs increasingly are becoming a financial risk to hospitals. The hospital's collection experience will become more important as an indicator of financial risk if the costs of operating EDs continue to escalate and collection rates do not improve. Both the costs of providing a service and the amount of the charge actually collected are valid concerns to those operating EDs.