Survey of the Statewide Impact of Payer Source on Referral of Small Burns to Burn Centers

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Abstract

It is generally agreed that patients with large burns will be referred to organized burn centers, however, the referral of patients with smaller burns is less certain. A two-part survey was conducted to identify referral patterns for burn patients that meet American Burn Association referral criteria, and any effect insurance type might have on the referral patterns. The emergency departments of our state hospital association’s member hospitals were contacted seeking a referral for a fictitious patient with a third-degree scald of the dominant hand. The referral sites were contacted twice, first stating that the patient had commercial insurance, next stating that the patient had Medicaid. Data collected included wait time for an appointment or reasons for denial of an appointment. Of 218 hospitals, 46 were excluded because they did not offer emergency care, and eight because they were listed as burn centers on the American Burn Association website. Of the remaining 164, 119 (73%) would refer to a burn center, 21 (13%) to a plastic surgeon, 10 (6%) to a hand surgeon, 7 (4%) to a wound center, 7 (4%) to another nonburn physician resource. There was no difference in wait time to the first available appointment with regards to insurance type (6.56 ± 4.68 vs 6.53 ± 5.05 days). Our state’s referral pattern gives us insight into the regional referral pattern. This information will be used to guide a focused education and communication program to provide better service for the burn victims of our state.

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