Critical care medicine is a global specialty and epidemiologic research among countries provides important data on availability of critical care resources, best practices, and alternative options for delivery of care. Understanding the diversity across healthcare systems allows us to explore that rich variability and understand better the nature of delivery systems and their impact on outcomes. However, because the delivery of ICU services is complex (for example, interplay of bed availability, cultural norms and population case-mix), the diversity among countries also creates challenges when interpreting and applying data. This complexity has profound influences on reported outcomes, often obscuring true differences. Future research should emphasize determination of resource data worldwide in order to understand current practices in different countries; this will permit rational pandemic and disaster planning, allow comparisons of in-ICU processes of care, and facilitate addition of pre- and post-ICU patient data to better interpret outcomes.