The aim of this study was to establish whether price list information could reduce laboratory and radiological examination costs in emergency departments (EDs).
Materials and methods
A prospective survey of adult (>16 years old) admissions was conducted at the ED of a university hospital in Belgium. Nine resident emergency physicians were followed for a span of 6 months, which was divided into 2-month periods: control (October and November 2011), intervention (December 2011 to January 2012), and washout (February and March 2012). Laboratory and radiological costs for each of the daily admissions were calculated during the respective periods and compared.
A total of 3758 patients were registered: 1093 in period 1 (control), 1329 in period 2 (intervention), and 1336 in period 3 (washout). We observed significant reductions in examination costs: 10.73% (P=0.015) for laboratory and 33.66% (P<0.001) for radiological costs in period 2 versus period 1; 5.02% (P=0.014) for laboratory and 40.00% (P<0.001) for radiological costs in period 3 versus period 1. In addition, we found that laboratory examination costs increased slightly between periods 2 and 3 (+6.4%), whereas costs related to radiologic examinations continued to decrease (−10.16%); however, these differences were not statistically significant.
We conclude that the distribution of price lists at EDs promotes cost awareness, which can result in significant decreases in examination costs.