National Cost Savings from Observation Unit Management of Syncope

Christopher W. Baugh, Li Jung Liang, Marc A. Probst, Benjamin C. Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objectives Syncope is a frequent emergency department (ED) presenting complaint and results in a disproportionate rate of hospitalization with variable management strategies. The objective was to estimate the annual national cost savings, reduction in inpatient hospitalizations, and reduction in hospital bed hours from implementation of protocolized care in an observation unit. Methods We created a Monte Carlo simulation by building a model that reflects current clinical practice in the United States and uses inputs gathered from the most recent available peer-reviewed literature and national survey data. ED visit volume was adjusted to reflect observation unit availability and the portion of observation visits requiring subsequent inpatient care. A recent multicenter randomized controlled study informed the cost savings and length of stay reduction per observation unit visit model inputs. The study population included patients aged 50 years and older with syncope deemed at intermediate risk for serious 30-day cardiovascular outcomes. Results The mean (±SD) annual cost savings was estimated to be $108 million (±$89 million) from avoiding 235,000 (±13,900) inpatient admissions, resulting in 4,297,000 (±1,242,000) fewer hospital bed hours. Conclusions The potential national cost savings for managing selected patients with syncope in a dedicated observation unit is substantial. Syncope is one of many conditions suitable for care in an observation unit as an alternative to an inpatient setting. As pressure to decrease hospital length of stay and bill short-stay hospitalizations as observation increases, syncope illustrates the value of observation unit care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-941
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015


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