Oct 16, 2012 8:00 AM

Author: Marty C. Malheiro

The influential role poison centers play in the U.S. health system has largely gone unrecognized, even though poison centers save countless lives and more than a billion dollars each year. Despite their contributions, poison centers have recently undergone severe reductions in federal, state and other support streams and may soon experience additional funding cuts.

Further funding cuts will make it difficult for poison centers to continue providing life-saving services. Reductions in the services offered by poison centers are likely to result in higher health care spending paid for by federal and state governments, private insurers, and consumers.

In 2012, The Lewin Group was commissioned by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) to describe the value of the poison center system as a whole. The findings are detailed in the Final Report on the Value of the Poison Center System (The Lewin Group Inc., September 2012), available at www.aapcc.org. The report confirms the overwhelming return on investment that the poison center system contributes to the nation as a whole, including:

  • $752.9 million saved per year due to avoided medical utilization.
  • $441.1 million saved per year due to reduced hospital length of stay.
  • $23.9 million saved per year due to in-person outreach.
  • $603 million saved per year due to reduced work-loss days. 

In total, the poison center system saves more than $1.8 billion per year in medical costs and productivity. The return on investment is $13.39 for every dollar invested in the poison center system. The savings are shared by federal, state and local governments, as well as the private sector.

The residents in Utah tremendously benefit from the cost savings and enhanced patient care provided by the Utah Poison Control Center.

Marty C. Malheiro

Marty Malheiro is the outreach education coordinator for the Utah Poison Control Center at the University of Utah.

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