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More Trauma Care Spending Doesn't Raise Survival Rates

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 13, 2012

Spending more on trauma care does not necessarily improve survival rates, a national study suggests.

Research published in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery finds that the cost of treating trauma patients in the western United States is 33% higher than the cost for treating similarly injured patients in the Northeast.

Researchers, however, don't know why.

"Spending more doesn't always mean saving more lives," said study leader Adil H. Haider, MD, a trauma surgeon, associate professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of Hopkins' Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research. "If doctors in the Northeast do things more economically and with good results, why can't doctors out West do the same thing? This study provides a potential road map for cutting unnecessary costs without hurting outcomes."

The Hopkins study analyzed three years of data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's Nationwide Inpatient Sample. They identified 62,678 adults with a primary injury in one of five areas: blunt injury to the spleen, collapsed lung and bleeding in the chest, shinbone fracture, mild traumatic brain injury and liver injury.

The Hopkins researchers note that trauma-related disorders are among the five most expensive medical conditions. After controlling for variables such as chronic diseases that could bias the findings, the researchers estimated that the average per-person cost in the Northeast for trauma care for all five injury types combined was $14,022.

The cost was 18% higher in the South, 22% higher in the Midwest and 33% higher in the West.

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