Cost-effectiveness analysis is a useful tool for decisionmakers charged with prioritizing of the myriad medical interventions in the emergency department (ED). This analytic approach may be especially helpful for ranking programs that are competing for scarce resources while attempting to maximize net health benefits. In this article, we review the health economics literature on HIV screening in EDs and introduce the methods of cost-effectiveness analysis for medical interventions. We specifically describe the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio--its calculation, the derivation of ratio components, and the interpretation of these ratios.
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