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Respir Care. 2018 Jan;63(1):102-117. doi: 10.4187/respcare.05808. Epub 2017 Nov 28.

Utilizing Respiratory Therapists to Reduce Costs of Care.

Author information

Department of Cardiopulmonary Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL.
Department of Respiratory and Sleep Services; Phelps County Regional Medical Center, Rolla, MO.
Allegheny Health Network Home Medical Equipment, Ford City, PA.
Department of Respiratory Services, Mercy Hospital-Allina Health, Coon Rapids, MN.
Rush University Medical Center,Chicago, IL.
Galter Health Sciences Library, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.
American Association for Respiratory Care, Irving, TX.



Changes to the reimbursement of respiratory care services over the past 26 years make it imperative that respiratory therapists (RTs) demonstrate cost savings to establish their value. Therefore, this systematic review evaluated the cost-related impacts from utilizing RTs to deliver care when compared to other care providers.


The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were used to guide the search process. The study addressed articles across all age groups and care settings that compared the cost of care provided by RTs to a comparison group. Studies were excluded if they were not written in English, described care provided outside of the United States, did not provide quantitative data, or lacked a comparison group.


A total of 4,120 articles emerged from the search process, of which 60 qualified for a full text review. Cost savings were evaluated for the 28 articles included in this review, noting the study design, the specific respiratory care practice, use of protocols, clinical setting, and age group. The most frequently studied topic was mechanical ventilation, which along with disease management represented by the most randomized, controlled trials for the study design. The clinical practice area notably absent was home care.


Although cost comparisons across studies could not be made due to the inconsistent manner in which data were reported, evidence demonstrated that care provided by RTs yielded both direct and indirect cost reductions, which were achieved through protocol utilization, specialized expertise, and autonomous decision making. The care provided was consistent with care provided by other disciplines. It is critical for the respiratory care profession to highlight key clinical practice areas for future research, to establish uniform reporting measures for outcomes, and to foster the development of future respiratory care researchers to affirm the value that respiratory therapists add to patient care.


cost control; cost-benefit analysis; health care costs; respiratory therapy

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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