Cost savings associated with transfer of trauma patients within an accountable care organization☆, ☆☆

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act supports the establishment of accountable care organizations (ACOs) as care delivery models designed to save costs. The potential for these cost savings has been demonstrated in the primary care and inpatient populations, but not for patients with emergency conditions or traumatic injuries.


Our study evaluated adult trauma patients transferred to the tertiary care hospitals of a pioneer ACO, comparing those who were transferred from within the ACO to those from outside the ACO in terms of overall cost of hospitalization. Hospital length of stay and number of imaging studies were predetermined secondary outcomes.


The study population included 7696 hospitalizations for traumatic injuries over a 5-year period, 85.1% of which were for patients transferred from outside the ACO. Patients transferred from within the ACO had a 7.2% lower overall cost of hospitalization (P = .032). Mean injury severity scores were not significantly different between groups. Differences in mortality, intensive care unit length of stay, and overall hospital length of stay were not significant. However, analysis of radiology studies performed during the hospitalization revealed that patients transferred from within the ACO had, on average, 0.47 fewer advanced imaging studies per hospitalization than did those transferred from outside the ACO (3.55 vs 4.02 studies per hospitalization, P = .003).


Adult trauma patients transferred from within an ACO have significantly lower total costs of hospitalization than do those transferred from outside the system, without significant differences in disease burden, hospital length of stay, or mortality.

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