As suggested by studies that have examined the economic burden imposed by heart failure and, more specifically where the greatest expenditure occurs, the key to cost-effectively minimising the impact of a sustained heart failure epidemic is to minimise recurrent hospital use-even at the expense of increasing levels of community-based care and prescribed pharmacotherapy [Mark DB. Economics of treating heart failure. Am J Cardiol 1997;80:33H-38H; Weintraub WS, Cole J, Tooley JF. Cost and cost-effectiveness studies in heart failure research. Am Heart J 2002;143:565-76]. This paper examines the potential cost-benefits of applying specialist heart failure programs of care and the range of financial issues that need to be considered when establishing a formal heart failure service. (C) 2005 European Society of Cardiology. Published by Elsevier B.V.