On February 25, 1988, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) established Middle Tennessee Poison Center (MTPC) in response to the community’s need for a comprehensive poison resource center. VUMC provided essential support to establish a poison center that would provide services for the pubic and healthcare professionals in Nashville and 43 surrounding counties. That first year, MTPC provided service to 11,649 hotline callers.
Donna Seger, MD became the Medical Director of MTPC in 1990. In 2004 the remaining poison control centers in Tennessee ceased operation and MTPC became the sole provider of poison control service in the state of Tennessee. MTPC changed its name to Tennessee Poison Center (TPC) and was designated by the Tennessee Department of Health as the poison control center for all 95 Tennessee counties. TPC has received national accreditation from the American Association of Poison Control Centers and is one of 55 poison control centers in the U.S.
TPC’s goals are to prevent poisonings, minimize poisoning complications and reduce the number of poison related deaths through telephone hotline intervention, public education, professional education and clinical research. TPC measures its success by the number of poison victims it serves, the healthcare costs it averts, and the peace of mind it delivers to more than six million Tennessee residents.
Thirty years later, poisoning is the leading cause of injury death in Tennessee, surpassing motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds and drownings. TPC is the only poison control center in the state of Tennessee and Dr. Seger continues to be its Medical Director.
In 2017, TPC received 50,934 calls to the Poison Help hotline. 24% of calls were from healthcare professionals, emergency departments, and intensive care units. TPC provides three programs to every resident in the 95 Tennessee counties:
• A Poison Help hotline for poison emergency and information calls:
• Poison prevention education
• Surveillance for chemical and biological terrorism
In a recent call survey, 52% of hotline callers replied they would have visited a hospital ED if the poison center were not available. 62% of 2017 calls were safely managed at home or on site rather than in a healthcare facility. When poison victims are treated at home, unnecessary medical expenses are avoided and valuable healthcare dollars are saved. Based on the best estimate of Tennessee hospital ED charges that could be managed by TPC, last year TPC saved the taxpayers of Tennessee an estimated $10,421,334 in preventing ED fees for residents who are underinsured.
TPC saves lives and dollars. It is a crucial part of our healthcare system and critical for public safety.
This Question was prepared by Josephine Darwin, Director of Community Outreach
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Donna Seger, MD
Tennessee Poison Center
Poison Help Hotline: 1-800-222-1222
The Question of the Week is available on our website: www.tnpoisoncenter.org