Emergency & Trauma

November 2, 2016

Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center saved an estimated $8 million in taxpayer Emergency Department costs, study says

Poison_bottleThe Tennessee Poison Center, housed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, saved taxpayers of Tennessee an estimated $8 million last year by preventing unnecessary emergency department (ED) visits, according to a survey conducted by the Center.

The survey asked people who phoned the Poison Center in July, “Would you have gone to the ED if Tennessee Poison Center had not been available?”

Forty-four percent of those responding to the survey said that had the Poison Center not been available, they would have rushed to an emergency department to deal with the situation about which they were phoning.

Of those, a substantial portion, 45 percent, receive state medical assistance or are uninsured.

Based on the number of calls to the Poison Center in fiscal year 2016, an estimated 14,389 people would have gone to a Tennessee Emergency Department if a poison control center were not available. An estimated 6,475 (45 percent) of these people are uninsured or receive state medical assistance.

Based on the best estimate of Tennessee hospital ED charges for cases that could be managed by the Poison Center, the Center saved the taxpayers of Tennessee approximately $8,870,750 in emergency room costs for the underinsured.

“The Tennessee Poison Center provides an invaluable service to Tennessee residents that not only saves them time and money from unnecessary trips to the emergency room, but saves lives by providing 24-hour access to medical information during a crisis,” said Donna Seger, M.D., professor of Clinical Medicine and Emergency Medicine and Medical and Executive Director of the Poison Center.

Seger gave an example of the type of call that can save an ED visit—and ED expenses:

A small child chews on a package of silica and swallows the beads inside the packet. The child’s parent quickly calls the poison center, which provides free medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A certified specialist in poison information explains to the concerned parent that the beads in silica are a non-toxic substance and will pass through the child’s system without harm. A trip to the ED has been avoided, along with the stress and expense.

The Tennessee Poison Center, housed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, is a member of the Tennessee State Department of Health Commissioner’s Council on Injury Prevention, a group of organizations throughout the state who collaborate to reduce injury deaths in Tennessee.

If you suspect a poisoning, call Tennessee Poison Center for treatment advice. The Poison Help toll-free number is 1-800-222-1222. All calls are fast, free and confidential.