Author(s): Litovitz T, Benson BE, Youniss J, Metz E
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Abstract CONTEXT: High poison center utilization has been associated with decreased emergency department usage and hospitalization rates. However, utilization requires awareness of the poison center. Penetrance, defined as the number of human poison exposures reported to a poison center per 1,000 population, has been used as a marker of poison center awareness. OBJECTIVES: To identify factors that influence poison center penetrance to optimize the life- and cost-saving benefits of poison control centers. METHODS: Human poison exposures that were reported to the National Poison Data System in 2001 were analyzed to identify and rank factors affecting poison center penetrance. RESULTS: Overall penetrance correlated with pediatric penetrance (R(2) = 0.75, p < 0.01). As pediatric penetrance increased, there was a significant decline in the percent of children reported to a poison center that were already in or en route to a healthcare facility at the time of the call to the poison center (R(2) = 0.41, p < 0.01). Larger poison center service populations were associated with lower penetrance (R(2) = 0.23, p < 0.01). Inverse predictors of penetrance included inability to speak English well, Black/African American race, and distance from the poison center (multiple regression). Positive predictors included the percentage of the population younger than 5 years, the percentage of the adult population with a bachelor's degree, poison center certification, poison center educator FTEs (full time equivalents), Asian population percentage, and population density. DISCUSSION: The inverse correlation between pediatric penetrance and healthcare facility utilization supports prior observations of excessive healthcare utilization when a poison center is not called. Since race, language and distance are barriers to poison center utilization, and since healthcare utilization increases when poison center penetrance declines, low penetrance suggests a lack of awareness of the poison center rather than a low incidence of poisonings. CONCLUSION: Strategies to raise penetrance should be informed by an understanding of the barriers to utilization - language, Black/African American race, distance from the poison center, poverty, and lower education levels.
This article was published in Clin Toxicol (Phila)
and referenced in Journal of Health & Medical Informatics