Cost-utility of rapid polymerase chain reaction-based influenza testing for high-risk emergency department patients

Ann Emerg Med. 2013 Jul;62(1):80-8. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2013.01.005. Epub 2013 Mar 20.


Study objective: We evaluate the cost-effectiveness of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based rapid influenza testing and treatment for influenza in adult emergency department (ED) patients who are at high risk for or have evidence of influenza-related complications.

Methods: We developed a cost-utility decision analysis model that assessed adult patients presenting to the ED with symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, who met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for recommended antiviral treatment. Analysis was performed from the societal perspective, with incremental comparisons of 4 influenza testing and treatment strategies: treat none, treat according to provider judgment, treat according to results of a PCR-based rapid diagnostic test, and treat all.

Results: Treating no patients with antivirals was dominated by all other strategies that increased in both cost and benefit in the following order: treat according to provider judgment, treat according to results of a PCR-based rapid diagnostic test, and treat all. As influenza prevalence increases, treating all patients eventually dominated all other options.

Conclusion: The economic benefit of incorporating use of rapid PCR-based influenza testing for ED patients at risk of developing influenza-related complications depends on influenza prevalence; treatment guided by physician diagnosis or rapid testing, and treatment of all patients is more effective and less costly than no treatment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / economics*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / economics
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / diagnosis*
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthomyxoviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / economics*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / virology
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States


  • Antiviral Agents