Compared to Cancer and Heart Disease, Critical Care Research Is Significantly Underfunded

New Study Released by the Society of Critical Care Medicine Finds a More Than Six-Fold Discrepancy Between Federal Dollars Focusing on Research and the Financial Burden of Critical Care; Recommended Approach to Critical Care Research Focuses on Enhanced Funding and Cooperation Throughout the Critical Care Community

MOUNT PROSPECT, IL--(Marketwire - Apr 18, 2012) - In a country where more than five million patients are admitted to an intensive care unit every year1, a new study from the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) uncovered that the proportion of federally funded research dollars spent on critical care is significantly lower than the percentage of dollars spent delivering that care.

A Comparison of Critical Care Research Funding and the Financial Burden of Critical Illness in the United States found that research funding for critical care represents as little as 1.7 percent of the federal research budget, while care for critically ill patients is estimated to make up as much as 11 percent of national healthcare expenditures and 39% of all hospital admission costs.

The financial burden of critical care may be as high as $263 billion annually. In comparison, cancer care costs Americans $157.8 billion each year yet receives at least three times more federal research money than critical care. While U.S. health dollars spent on heart disease are twice those of critical care, cardiovascular research received four times greater funding from federal sources than critical care from federal sources.

Use of critical care resources continues to rapidly expand. From 2000 to 2005, the number of critical care beds increased 6.5 percent and the number of days patients spent in the intensive care unit (ICU) rose 10.6 percent. Critical illness is often lethal, and patients who survive it often are not able to return to their previous quality of life. The best hope for saving lives, improving the quality of life after discharge from an ICU, and containing costs lies in research and the implementation of those research findings every day.

"Critical illness potentially touches every patient and every family member," said Clifford S. Deutschman, MS, MD, FCCM, president, Society of Critical Care Medicine. "If the research dollars for critical care were equal to the burden, our ability to increase patient care while controlling costs could improve exponentially."

With an eye towards the future, SCCM has developed an action plan for critical care research based on input from a broad range of stakeholders. As detailed in Multi-society Task Force for Critical Care Research: Key Issues and Recommendations, the first steps in unleashing the ability to conduct more meaningful research are:

  • Altering the traditional silo-ed approach, typically based on specialty training or organ system, to be more inclusive, perhaps even tapping specialists outside the ICU
  • Linking areas of research more effectively through enhanced communication from researcher to clinician, and clinician to researcher
  • Accounting for the complexity of critical illness, and viewing the patients who are suffering as unique individuals
  • Enhancing the infrastructure for research, such as sharing information, jointly identifying goals and working together to address funding.

"The only way to deliver better and more cost-effective care is through research," said Craig M. Coopersmith, MD, FCCM. "In the current environment of shrinking budgets, how the critical care community prioritizes research can have a profound impact on improving outcomes and eradicating disease."

Sources: 1 Angus DC, Kelly MA, Schmitz RJ, et al, for the Committee on Manpower for Pulmonary and Critical Care Societies. Current and projected workforce requirements for care of the critically ill and patients with pulmonary disease: can we meet the requirements of an aging population? JAMA. 2000;284:2762-2770.

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Contact Information:

Jim Flanigan
Society of Critical Care Medicine
(847) 827-6869