Cost evaluation of point-of-care testing for community-acquired influenza in adults presenting to the emergency department

J Clin Virol. 2020 Aug;129:104533. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2020.104533. Epub 2020 Jul 3.


Background: Rapid molecular point-of-care tests (POCTs) for influenza have potential to produce cost savings in emergency departments (EDs) and acute care settings. To date, published projected savings have been based on estimated costs.

Objectives: This study aimed to describe the cost implications of a rapid influenza POCT using accurate real-world patient level costing data. 204 adult patients receiving point-of-care (POC) influenza testing in the ED as part of a routine clinical service were identified retrospectively, alongside a control cohort of 104 patients from the same influenza season. Costs for all were calculated at the individual patient level. Cost comparison was performed using an instrumental variable (IV) regression to overcome potential bias within the observational dataset.

Results: Patients who had a POCT on average cost 67 % less than those who did not (average cost reduction: £2066: 95 % CI: £624 and £2665). Moderate to high NEWS score at arrival, presence of ≥1 comorbidity, and age ≥70 years increased overall costs across both groups (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Savings from POC testing can be attributed to more targeted treatments, fewer admissions and reduced lengths of stay. The IV regression results are supported by a second method (ordinary least square against baseline characteristics). They are also in line with existing work that use estimated costs but indicate greater savings than predicted previously. In conclusion, POC influenza testing in the emergency department produces significant cost savings, this is demonstrated here through an analysis using individual real-world patient level costing data.

Keywords: Cost analysis; Emergency department; Influenza; POCT.