The trade-off between costs and outcomes: the case of acute myocardial infarction

Health Serv Res. 2010 Dec;45(6 Pt 1):1585-601. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2010.01161.x. Epub 2010 Sep 1.


Objective: To investigate and to quantify the relationship between hospital costs and health outcomes for patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) hospitals using individual-level data for costs and outcomes.

Data sources: VHA administrative files for the fiscal years 2000-2006.

Study design: Costs were defined as costs incurred during the index hospitalization for treatment of AMI. Mortality and readmission, assessed 1 year after the index hospitalization, were used as measures of clinical outcome. We examined health outcomes as a function of costs and other patient-level and hospital-level characteristics using a two-stage Cox proportional hazard model that accounted for competing risks within a multilevel framework. To control for patient comorbidities, we compiled a comprehensive list of comorbidities that have been found in other studies to affect mortality and readmissions.

Principal findings: We found that costs were negatively associated with mortality and readmissions. Every U.S.$100 less spent is associated with a 0.63 percent increase in the hazard of dying and a 1.24 percent increase in the hazard to be readmitted conditional on not dying. This main finding remained unchanged after a number of sensitivity checks.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that there is a trade-off between costs and outcomes. The negative association between costs and mortality suggests that outcomes should be monitored closely when introducing cost-containment programs. Additional studies are needed to examine the cost-outcome relationship for conditions other than AMI to see whether our results are consistent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Hospital Costs*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Myocardial Infarction / economics*
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*