Cost-effective Care

Nursing Knowledge

Cost-effective Care

The goal of cost-effective healthcare is achieving optimal patient outcomes without incurring unnecessary costs. For nurses, this means relying on evidence-based practices, preventing waste of medical supplies, promoting preventive care, and actively participating in patient care strategies that avoid redundant tests and procedures. The approach requires a delicate balance to ensure that cost-cutting measures do not compromise the quality of care.
Last updated: December 4, 2023


Cost-effectiveness must never clash with universal patient rights and the ethical principles that guide nursing practice. Remember them with this concise cheat sheet!

Table of contents

What is cost-effective care? 

Cost-effective care refers to high-quality healthcare services being delivered in a way so that benefits and outcomes are proportionate to their costs. In other words: Cost-effective care means providing high-quality care that brings about positive patient outcomes without unnecessary expenses.

Important: This does not mean always choosing the cheapest option, but rather identifying the most appropriate ways to allocate resources for the best patient outcomes. 

Cost-effective nursing care requires a careful balance of resources, ethical considerations, and a collaborative approach, where the healthcare team continuously evaluates outcomes against costs. 

Measures involved in achieving cost-effective nursing care

  • Use evidence-based treatments (proven to work well): avoids wasting time resources into ineffective interventions 
  • Avoid unnecessary services: only deliver essential tests and procedures
  • Invest in prevention: early screening, education, and prevention can help prevent bigger health issues and greater costs in the long run
  • Focus on using resources smartly: supplies, appropriate staffing, utilize technology

Why is cost-effective care important? 

Cost-effective care has an important impact on the healthcare system by: 

  • Making healthcare more affordable for patients and sustainable for providers 
  • Better utilizing limited resources, ensuring more patients can receive quality care
  • Improving patient outcomes through focus on evidence-based practice (since interventions that have been proven effective is encouraged in cost-effective care)
  • Improving healthcare system sustainability in the face of growing patient populations and budget constraints through preventing the waste of resources 

Nursing challenges around cost-effective care 

  • Quality–cost balance: Maintaining high-quality care while cutting costs is a challenge for nurses; ongoing education, adaptability, and problem-solving skills are needed.
  • Access to care and inequality: In efforts to cut costs, access to certain treatments may be limited, raising ethical concerns, especially if patients’ health outcomes are compromised. There is also a risk that disproportionate resource allocation could contribute to healthcare disparities.
  • Understaffing: Cost-effectiveness needs to address safe staffing levels to maintain care quality. 
  • Hindrance to innovation: Technological advancements and other innovative tests or treatments can improve care but are expensive: determining which are worth the cost is an ongoing challenge. 

Cost-effective care in nursing: examples 

Preventing “never-events”

“Never events” (sentinel) are medical errors that should never happen – egregious oversights and mistakes in medical care that are clearly identifiable, preventable, and serious in their consequences for patients (examples include: surgery performed on the wrong body part or on the wrong patient, leaving a foreign object inside a patient after surgery, or administering the wrong type of blood during a transfusion). 

Prevention of such events through clear communication, standardized protocols and double-check systems, education, and fostering a culture of safety is a priority for hospitals, not only for patient safety and the integrity of the healthcare system, but also as a cost factor. 

Reducing length of stay

Reducing the length of patients’ stay in a hospital does not mean premature discharge before successful outcome. 

Instead, the length of hospital stays can be reduced through preventing errors that would extend a stay or delay a discharge when patients are medically ready to go home. Factors that can extend hospital stays include: 

  • Miscommunication
  • Poor planning
  • Families or nursing homes not being ready to take on the discharged person 

Reducing expensive turnover 

When the burden on a nursing team increases and leads to burnout, caregivers will leave to look for more desirable working conditions. 

It is expensive to train new staff due to turnover and in a growing nursing shortage, finding replacements is increasingly difficult. Hospitals should maintain, grow, support, and optimize their nursing staff to keep up with patient care. 

Improve work processes in nursing care 

  • Increase efficiencies in the workplace environment.
  • Consider practicing lean management (reducing non-value-add activities)
  • Identify and automate repetitive administrative tasks
  • Provide opportunities for more time at the patient bedside for nurses.
    •  Increased time spent with patients has a direct impact on cost-effective care by increasing job and patient satisfaction and improving quality of care. 

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Nursing Cheat Sheet

Cost-effectiveness must never clash with universal patient rights and the ethical principles that guide nursing practice. Remember them with this concise cheat sheet!

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