A recent nationwide report finds that the 57 poison centers in the United States save citizens more than $1.8 billion annually in medical costs. Examination of additional data collected in Arizona shows that the state’s two centers save residents of the Grand Canyon State nearly $45.5 million every year.
“Calls to poison centers keep the vast majority of people out of the hospital and decrease the length of stays for patients who are admitted,” said Dr. Steven Curry, medical toxicologist at the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center in Phoenix. “The role poison centers quietly play in the U.S. health system often goes unrecognized, but the savings to individuals, insurers and government is truly significant, and helps keep total healthcare costs down.”
Earlier this year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers commissioned The Lewin Group to determine the value of the poison center network as a whole. For its report issued in September 2012, The Lewin Group based calculations mainly on costs that were avoided because callers received medical advice that prevented visits to emergency rooms and other providers. Also included in the calculations were shorter hospitalizations enabled by medical staff consulting with poison center toxicology experts and callers’ reduced time away from work.
The separate 2011 data for Arizona indicates the savings to AHCCCS, the state’s Medicaid system, were more than $9 million. About 20 percent of the Arizona patients whose toxic exposures are managed at home by a call to the poison center are enrolled in AHCCCS. Savings to private insurers in Arizona during 2011 exceeded $28 million.
“The life-saving work poison centers do is more important than ever,” said Dr. Mazda Shirazi, medical director at the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, part of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy in Tucson.
“Did you know that deaths from accidental overdoses now exceed deaths from car accidents?” he continued. “It’s easy to see the vital role performed by a hotline that provides expert medical advice about medications and toxic exposures around the clock. But we think the citizens we serve should also realize that we are not only saving lives, but also saving millions of dollars a year for them and the companies and agencies that cover the cost of their care.”
The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy provides free and confidential poison and medication information to the public and healthcare professionals. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One of 55 centers that make up the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the Tucson center serves all of Arizona except Maricopa County. Call 1-800-222-1222 from any location to reach the poison center nearest you.