Economic Value of Out-of-Hospital Emergency Care: A Structured Literature Review

E. Brooke Lerner, Ronald F. Maio, Herbert G. Garrison, Daniel W. Spaite, Graham Nichol

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Study objective: The evaluation of the impact of out-of-hospital emergency care is a relatively new research focus. As such, there is a compelling need to determine how finite health care resources should be used in this setting. The objective of this study is to conduct a structured review of published economic evaluations of out-of-hospital emergency care to assess its economic value. Methods: A structured literature search and structured review of articles pertaining to the economic value of out-of-hospital care was performed. The bibliographic database MEDLINE was searched for pertinent English-language articles published between 1966 and 2003. The search used the medical subject headings "emergency medical services" and "emergency medical technician" and was limited to the subheading "economics" and crossed with the medical subject heading "economics." The titles generated by this search were systematically reviewed and limited by topic. Abstracts from the identified titles were reviewed to select a final set of pertinent articles. These articles were further limited based on explicit inclusion and exclusion criteria. Authors used a previously published structured evaluation tool to review the final set of identified articles for quality and content. Results: The initial MEDLINE search identified 3,533 citations. From this set, 535 potentially relevant abstracts were reviewed. From the abstract review, 46 articles were identified, along with an additional 14 from searching the secondary references. Of these 60 articles, 32 met the review inclusion criteria and were subjected to a full structured review. These studies predominantly addressed the cost of cardiac arrest (n=13, 41%), major trauma (n=8, 25%), and emergency medical services treatment in general (n=8, 25%). Only 14 studies considered the costs and consequences of competing alternatives. Of these, 2 were cost-benefit and 12 were cost-effectiveness evaluations. Two of the 14 studies met all 10 criteria for high-quality economic evaluation, whereas 2 others met none. Conclusion: There is a paucity of out-of-hospital care literature that addresses cost and economic value. The extant literature is limited in scope, poor in quality, and evaluates small subsets of out-of-hospital emergency care costs. Favorable cost-effectiveness has not been firmly established for most aspects of out-of-hospital emergency care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-524
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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