ED predictive instrument could save $700 million a year

A new add-on to a standard electrocardiograph could help hospitals reduce inappropriate admissions to cardiac care units (CCUs) without lowering the quality of care for patients, according to a study by H.P. Selker, MD, in the December issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (129:845-55).

The study found that combining a computer with the electrocardiograph traditionally used in EDs could prevent 200,000 unnecessary hospitalizations and more than 100,000 admissions to CCUs per year, nationwide. This translates into a savings of roughly $728 million each year in hospital costs, or approximately $100 saved for each of the six million to seven million ED visits annually for chest pain.

When using this decision support system, doctors type in the patient’s sex, age, and the presence of chest pains. The instrument computes and prints on the EKG printout the probability of acute cardiac ischemia, which occurs when there is inadequate blood supply to the heart. With better information, ED doctors can better decide on hospitalization or discharge and treatment options.