Combine trauma, emergency surgery to save thousands

Hospitals looking to improve surgical care quality while lowering the cost of emergency surgical care should take a page from Loma Linda University Medical Center. The California hospital found success with an acute care surgery model that combined trauma and emergency general surgery into one 12-hour in-house shift service, according to research in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

The acute care surgery model was associated with lower costs for performing appendectomies and surgical removals of the gallbladder from July 2010 to June 2011.

The mean cost for each patient undergoing appendectomy in the acute care surgery model was $7,018.00, $1,024 less than the traditional surgical care model. Surgical removals of the gallbladder cost $9,903.00 per patient in the acute care surgery model, a drop of $3,225 from the traditional model.

In addition to cost savings, the combined model also led to better patient outcomes, thanks, in part, to earlier surgical evaluation, earlier surgical intervention, earlier recovery and earlier return home than with the traditional model.

"These reductions in time translated into fewer patients with complications and substantial savings for each case and overall better outcomes in the acute care surgery group," the authors said, noting that improved timeliness is what makes a combined trauma-emergency department successful.

Combined or not, trauma divisions can improve outcomes: Patients treated at trauma centers have a 25 percent higher survival rate than those at hospitals without trauma services.

To learn more:
- here's the research announcement