This article evaluates current evidence on the cost of emergency care. First, we reviewed data from national data sets and found that aggregate spending on emergency care is 5% to 6% of national health expenditures but could be as high as 10%. These figures are significantly higher than those previously published. Second, we reviewed the literature on economic models of the cost of emergency care and found that the results are inconclusive and incomplete. As an alternative, we discussed activity-based cost accounting and concluded that it is a promising research methodology for emergency medicine. We conclude by advocating for a strategy to demonstrate the value and strategic importance of emergency medicine rather than minimizing its role in national health care costs.
Copyright © 2013 American College of Emergency Physicians. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.