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Statewide Trauma System Cuts Preventable Deaths By Half

By John Commins  
   March 22, 2017

An economic impact analysis suggests that the Arkansas Trauma System has saved about $186 million, providing a solid return on investment for a program that costs the state $20 million a year.

A study out of Arkansas supports the argument that a well-regulated statewide trauma system is a money-saving investment.

Charles Mabry, MD, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, was on a team of analysts that compiled an economic impact analysis of the Arkansas Trauma System, which was launched in 2010 using $20 million from a special tax on cigarette sales.

Mabry says his analysis may be the first to evaluate the ROI on a statewide trauma network. Most states have regional networks, and before 2010, Arkansas's trauma network was scattershot, and had no state-designated trauma centers.

The launch of the statewide network in 2010 created a pronounced before-and-after line of demarcation that allowed for comparison.

The analysis, appearing this month in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, found that over the past five years, the statewide trauma system has reduced preventable deaths by 48%, saved 79 lives in a 12-month period, and saved $186 million, providing taxpayers with a nine-fold return on investment.

The study compared statistics in 2009–the year before the statewide trauma system went on line–with a 12-month period between 2013 and 2014, when the system was up and running.

A Steep Drop in Preventable Deaths
In 2009, the preventable death rate was 30%. That rate dropped to 16% after implementation of the trauma network, a 48% decrease in preventable deaths. The difference equates to 79 lives over 12 months. (For details on the rather extensive methodology, see the report.)

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

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