Introduction: An effective trauma system should offer patients triaged to a trauma center (TC) a survival advantage and cost-effective treatment. Three questions were asked: 1) Does treatment at a TC versus a nontrauma center (NTC) improve survival? 2) Is the system cost-effective? 3) Is access to the system equitable?
Methods: The 2003 Florida discharge database identified patients with ICD9 codes 800 to 959. Survival risk ratios (SRR) were calculated using1999–2000 data and ICISS were produced for each code. Using 2003 data, mortality rates were calculated for matched patients at TCs and NTCs. Instrumental variables methodology was used to account for differences in mortality risks of patients triaged to TCs versus NTCs. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine differences in mortality. Charge/cost ratios were analyzed to compute the cost care and cost/life saved. Accessibility to a TC within 85 minutes of injury was assessed.
Results: Treatment at a TC was associated with an 18% reduction in mortality. Mean costs of care in TCs and NTCs were $11,910 and $6019, respectively. Dividing the mean cost difference by the reduction in mortality yields a cost of $34,887/life saved. A total of 42% of patients returned to work within 24 months of injury. Using an expected median of 19 years of employment for a 33-year-old individual and proposed state funding figures for the trauma system, a life saved results in an approximate annual cost to the state of between $100 and $500. Currently, 95% of citizens of the state have access to the trauma system within 85 minutes of injury; however, only 38% of trauma patients are triaged to a TC. Addition of 3 TCs would increase these percentages to 99% and 65%.
Conclusions: Triage to a Florida TC is associated with a decreased risk of death. Moreover, cost/life year saved is favorable when compared with societal expenditures for other health problems. Improved deployment of TCs is necessary to optimize access. This assessment methodology is a useful model for evaluation of mature trauma systems.