BACKGROUND: National guidelines for prehospital trauma triage aim to identify seriously injured patients who may benefit from transport to trauma centers. These guidelines have poor sensitivity for serious injury among older adults. We evaluated the cost-effectiveness of a high-sensitivity triage strategy for older adults. STUDY DESIGN: We developed a Markov chain Monte Carlo microsimulation model to estimate the cost-effectiveness of high-sensitivity field triage criteria among older adults compared with current practice. The model used a retrospective cohort of 3621 community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries who were transported by emergency medical services after an acute injury in 7 counties in the northwestern US during January to December 2011. These data informed model estimates of emergency medical services triage assessment, hospital transport patterns, and outcomes from index hospitalization up to 1 year after discharge. Outcomes beyond 1 year were modeled using published literature. Differences in cost and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were calculated for both strategies using a lifetime analytical horizon. We calculated the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (cost per QALY gained) to assess cost-effectiveness, which we defined using a threshold of less than $100,000 per QALY. RESULTS: High-sensitivity trauma field triage for older adults would produce a small incremental benefit in average trauma system effectiveness (0.0003 QALY) per patient at a cost of $1,236,295 per QALY. Sensitivity analysis indicates that the cost of initial hospitalization and emergency medical services adherence to triage status (ie transporting triage-positive patients to a trauma center) had the largest influence on overall cost-effectiveness. CONCLUSIONS: High-sensitivity trauma field triage is not cost-effective among older adults.
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