A budget impact analysis of rapid human immunodeficiency virus screening in Veterans Administration emergency departments

J Emerg Med. 2012 Jun;42(6):719-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2010.11.038. Epub 2011 Jan 28.


Background: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening is cost-effective and recommended in populations with low disease prevalence. However, because screening is not cost-saving, its financial feasibility must be understood.

Study objectives: We forecast the costs of two Emergency Department-based HIV testing programs in the Veterans Administration: 1) implementing a non-targeted screening program and providing treatment for all patients thusly identified (Rapid Testing); and 2) treating patients identified due to late-stage symptoms (Usual Care); to determine which program was the most financially feasible.

Methods: Using a dynamic decision-analysis model, we estimated the financial impact of each program over a 7-year period. Costs were driven by patient disease-severity at diagnosis, measured by CD4+ category, and the proportion of patients in each disease-severity category. Cost per CD4+ category was modeled from chart review and database analysis of treatment-naïve HIV-positive patients. Distributions of CD4+ counts differed in patients across the Rapid Testing and Usual Care arms.

Results: A non-targeted Rapid Testing program was not significantly more costly than Usual Care. Although Rapid Testing had substantial screening costs, they were offset by lower inpatient expenses associated with earlier identification of disease. Assuming an HIV prevalence of 1% and 80% test acceptance, the cost of Rapid Testing was $1,418,088, vs. $1,320,338 for Usual Care (p=0.5854). Results support implementation of non-targeted rapid HIV screening in integrated systems.

Conclusions: This analysis adds a new component of support for HIV screening by demonstrating that rapid, non-targeted testing does not cost significantly more than a diagnostic testing approach.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Serodiagnosis* / methods
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics*
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / economics
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Health Care Costs
  • Hospitals, Veterans / economics
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics*