A comparison of critical care research funding and the financial burden of critical illness in the United States

Crit Care Med. 2012 Apr;40(4):1072-9. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e31823c8d03.


Objectives: To estimate federal dollars spent on critical care research, the cost of providing critical care, and to determine whether the percentage of federal research dollars spent on critical care research is commensurate with the financial burden of critical care.

Design and data sources: The National Institutes of Health Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects database was queried to identify funded grants whose title or abstract contained a key word potentially related to critical care. Each grant identified was analyzed by two reviewers (three if the analysis was discordant) to subjectively determine whether it was definitely, possibly, or definitely not related to critical care. Hospital and total costs of critical care were estimated from the Premier Database, state discharge data, and Medicare data. To estimate healthcare expenditures associated with caring for critically ill patients, total costs were calculated as the combination of hospitalization costs that included critical illness as well as additional costs in the year after hospital discharge.

Measurements and main results: Of 19,257 grants funded by the National Institutes of Health, 332 (1.7%) were definitely related to critical care and a maximum of 1212 (6.3%) grants were possibly related to critical care. Between 17.4% and 39.0% of total hospital costs were spent on critical care, and a total of between $121 and $263 billion was estimated to be spent on patients who required intensive care. This represents 5.2% to 11.2%, respectively, of total U.S. healthcare spending.

Conclusions: The proportion of research dollars spent on critical care is lower than the percentage of healthcare expenditures related to critical illness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness*
  • Critical Illness / economics*
  • Financing, Government / economics
  • Financing, Government / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospital Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.) / economics
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.) / statistics & numerical data
  • Research Support as Topic / economics
  • Research Support as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology