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Research Summary

Cost Savings from Alcohol Intervention for Trauma Patients

Brief alcohol interventions for injured patients in emergency departments and inpatient trauma services can decrease future alcohol intake and repeat injuries. To estimate the cost effectiveness of broadly implementing alcohol screening and intervention for these patients, researchers used published data and a decision-analysis model that simulated cost-benefit scenarios under a variety of conditions. Findings from the model include the following:

  • Twenty-seven percent of injured adults treated in an emergency department (representing 5.5 million visits per year in the United States) would be candidates for an alcohol intervention.
  • Under baseline model assumptions (e.g., for implementation costs, injury rates), each $1 spent on alcohol screening and intervention for trauma patients would save $3.81 in future direct healthcare costs. This corresponds to a net cost savings of $89 per patient screened or $1.82 billion in direct healthcare costs each year.
  • When model assumptions were allowed to vary, screening and intervention remained cost saving in 92% of simulations.

Comments:

The consistent finding of cost savings over a wide range of conditions lessens concerns raised by the uncertainties in the researchers' baseline assumptions (e.g., high efficacy of intervention, low cost of screening) and decision-analysis model (e.g., lack of consideration for false-positive and false-negative screening results). This well-done analysis lends support to broader implementation and funding for alcohol screening and intervention efforts in emergency departments and trauma services.

Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc

Reference:

Gentilello LM, Ebel BE, Wickizer TM, et al. Alcohol interventions for trauma patients treated in emergency departments and hospitals: a cost-benefit analysis. Ann Surg. 2005;241(4):541-550.


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