Centralizing the Poison Control System Could be Efficient and Cost-Effective

Study of the cost and feasibility of alternative models for a national poison control system

From 1996 to 1997, researchers at the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University in Washington carried out the second phase of a study that was designed to evaluate options for reconfiguring the country's network of regional poison control centers into a more effective national system.

The team conducted in-depth case studies of six Poison Control Centers across the U.S. to determine the essential functions of a center, and to identify the costs associated with each of those functions. A national survey of the remaining poison control centers across the U.S. was conducted to determine the validity and generalizability of the information obtained in the case studies.

Key Recommendations

  • The Center for Health Policy Research team made the following recommendations:

    • Create a partially integrated system linked through a common 800 telephone number with some centralized subfunctions.
    • The integrated U.S. poison control system should contain about 50 regional poison control centers, each serving a population of approximately 5 million people.
    • Establish an oversight committee to work with the poison control centers to oversee the operation and administration of the nationwide network, identify efficiencies, cost-containment options, and ways to reduce duplication of effort.