The Cost of Burn Transfers: A Retrospective Review of 7 Years of Admissions to a Regional Burn Center

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Abstract

The transport of thermally injured patients can involve significant costs; however, not all thermally injured patients necessitate transfer to a burn center. The purpose of this study was to review transfers to an American Burn Association–verified regional burn center to determine whether the transfers were necessary and the cost associated with unnecessary transfers. A retrospective chart review identified 707 patients transferred to an American Burn Association–verified burn center with an acute burn injury during a 7-year period. For the purposes of this study, “unnecessary transfer” was defined as any patient admitted fewer than 7 days who did not undergo operative intervention. Transfer cost estimates were based on records from regional land paramedic and land and air medical transport services. In total, 27.3% of transfers were potentially “unnecessary transfers,” with an associated cost of approximately $227,396.93 (18.9% of total transfer costs in study). Average unnecessary transfer cost varied by method of transport: land ambulance (n = 130) $285.72, helicopter (n = 27) $4,136.34, and airplane (n = 15) $4,908.67. The transfer of thermally injured patients is associated with significant cost. Unnecessary transfers represent an inefficient use of a limited resource in an already strained healthcare system. The findings of this study suggest that further initiatives should be explored to ensure the appropriate transfer of thermally injured patients.

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