ACR: Rheumatologists Help Reduce ED, Hospitalization Costs

Lucy Hicks

August 31, 2023

Rheumatology care can save health systems more than $2700 per patient per year, according to a new report from the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

In a white paper and corresponding position statement, the organization outlined how rheumatology care delivers financial benefits for health systems. The work also highlighted prior research on the positive outcomes associated with rheumatology care, including the following:

"Many rheumatologists can attest to the value they bring to the care team at a healthcare system," said Christina Downey, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California, in a press release. She is the lead author of the white paper and chair of the ACR's Government Affairs Committee. "Our goal with the paper and position statement is to emphasize what that value looks like from a preventive and financial perspective. A rheumatologist on the care team benefits patients, practices, and the economy."

The analysis used adjusted claims insurance data to compare markets with a high vs low supply of rheumatologists. A high supply was defined as at least 1.5 rheumatologists per 100,000 population, whereas a low supply was less than this amount. On average, markets with a high supply of rheumatologists had lower emergency department (ED) and hospitalization costs per patient per year.

  ED costs Hospitalization costs
Low Supply $4194 $4194
High supply $2882 $9542
Cost savings $1312 $1450


Added together, high-supply rheumatology markets save on average $2762 in ED visit and hospitalization costs per patient per year.

Downey and colleagues also tallied the direct and downstream billings associated with rheumatologists, including office visits, consultations, lab testing, and radiology services. The average revenue generated per rheumatologist was $3.5 million per year.

"Emphasizing the impact rheumatologists have on the entire medical community is more important than ever, especially as we contend with an impending rheumatology workforce shortage coupled with an expected increase in patient demand for rheumatologic care," Downey said. "This paper supports our recruitment and sustainability efforts for the specialty by spotlighting the significant contributions we make every day and every year to patient outcomes, hospitals, and other healthcare practices."

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