Objectives: Dedicated otolaryngology emergency rooms (ERs) provide a unique mechanism of health care delivery. Relative costs and willingness to pay (WTP) for these services have not been studied. This study aims to provide a cost-benefit analysis of otolaryngology-specific ER care.
Study design: Cost-benefit analysis based on contingent valuation surveys.
Setting: An otolaryngology-specific ER in a tertiary care academic medical center.
Subjects and methods: Adult English-speaking patients presenting to an otolaryngology ER were included. WTP questions were used to assess patient valuations of specialty emergency care. Sociodemographic data, income, and self-reported levels of distress were assessed. State-level and institution-specific historical cost data were merged with WTP data within a cost-benefit analysis framework.
Results: The response rate was 75.6%, and 199 patients were included in the final analysis. Average WTP for otolaryngology ER services was $319 greater than for a general ER (95% CI: $261 to $377), with a median value of $200. The historical mean cost per visit at a general ER was $575, and mean cost at the specialty ER was $551 (95% CI: $529 to $574). Subtracting incremental cost from incremental WTP yielded a net benefit of $343.
Conclusion: Dedicated otolaryngology ER services are valued by patients for acute otolaryngologic problems and have a net benefit of $343 per patient visit. They appear to be a cost-beneficial method for addressing acute otolaryngologic conditions. This study has implications for ER-based otolaryngologic care and direct-to-specialist services.
Keywords: contingent valuation; cost-benefit analysis; emergency services; specialty emergency rooms; willingness to pay.
© American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation 2015.