We investigated the incidence of hospital utilization for injuries and compared poisoning with other forms of injury. Previous studies have suggested poison control centers reduce health-care costs by decreasing hospital utilization.
We conducted a one-year retrospective study involving patients treated for injuries at acute-care hospitals in Kentucky in 2008. We also compared inpatient discharges with discharges directly from the emergency department (ED) to determine hospitalization rates. The primary data sources were the Kentucky Hospital Billing database and the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center (KRPCC) database.
In 2008, there were 377,642 hospital encounters for injuries in Kentucky. The most common mechanisms of injury were falls, struck by/against, motor vehicle traffic crashes, and overexertion. Three causes of injury were greater than one standard deviation above the mean in percentage of inpatient admissions: poisoning (41.3%), firearms (38.4%), and drowning (22.4%). During this same year, KRPCC reported 46,258 poisonings, with 76.5% of patients managed outside of a health-care facility, 11.4% of patients treated and released from the ED, 7.1% of patients admitted to inpatient care, 2.3% of patients admitted to psychiatric care, and 2.7% lost to follow-up.
Conclusions. Three causes of injury had the greatest percentage of patients admitted for inpatient medical care—poisoning, firearms, and drowning—suggesting a high level of severity in these injuries presenting to the ED. We believe availability and use of a poison control center reduced hospital utilization for poisoning primarily by managing a large number of low-severity patients outside of the hospital system.