Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the impact on patient outcome and hospital performance of preparing for and achieving American College of Surgeons (ACS) Level I trauma verification.
Methods: The center was a previously designated state regional trauma center located adjacent to a major metropolitan area. Preparation for ACS verification began in early 1996 and was completed in early 1998. Final verification took place in April 1999. Data were analyzed before (1994) and after (1998) the process. There was a marked increase in administrative support with trauma named one of the hospital’s six centers of excellence. Two full-time board-certified trauma/critical care surgeons were added to the current six trauma surgeons. Their major focus was trauma care. Trauma support staff was also increased with case managers, a trauma nurse practitioner, additional trauma registrars, and administrative support staff. Education and continuous quality improvement were markedly expanded starting in 1996.
Results: There were 1,098 trauma patients admitted in 1994, and 1,658 in 1998. Overall mortality decreased (1994, 7.38%; 1998, 5.37%;p < 0.05). There was a marked decrease in mortality for severely injured (Injury Severity Score > 30) patients (1994, 44% mortality [38 of 86]; 1998, 27% [22 of 80];p < 0.04). Average length of stay also decreased (1994, 12.22 days; 1998, 9.87 days;p < 0.02). This yielded an estimated cost savings for 1998 of greater than $4,000 per patient (total saving estimate of $7.4 million).
Conclusion: Trauma system improvement as related to achieving ACS Level I verification appeared to have a positive impact on survival and patient care. There were cost savings realized that helped alleviate the added expense of this system improvement. The process of achieving ACS Level I verification is worthwhile and can be cost effective.