Evolving technology, demographics, and regulatory changes are all expanding the type and scope of services that Poison Control Centers have historically provided. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the limitations of the Mr. Yuk logo; we are not “just the place that Mom’s call” anymore.
Last year, the IPC received about 36,500 calls on children 5 and under. We provided triage and treatment recommendations that allowed families to treat a stunning 96% of these kids at home without an expensive or stressful trip to the ER. Hmmmm, maybe that sounds like the place that mom’s call after all. Not quite the complete picture however. Consider that for adults ages 20 and over, the IPC managed over 12,000 individuals at home, but also assisted health care providers treat another 12,000 adult patients in office and hospital settings. This sounds like the place that doctors and nurses can also call for medical toxicology information.
The demographics of poisoning have changed tremendously over the past decade. Poison prevention education, regulation that mandates safer packaging of medicines and household products have markedly lowered the number of severe and life threatening pediatric overdoses we see each year. For the vast majority of families and children, we serve as a triage service by determining if the dose ingested is enough to be poisonous.
For the health care providers, the poison center does not function as ‘the place moms call’, but as a telemedicine toxicology consult service. This specialized service takes up the bulk of the IPC resources of time, staff, training and technology. Just like in a hospital where really sick patients use the bulk of health care resources, complicated consults consume the bulk of the IPC’s.
The modern poison center of today also provides telephone-based information during public health emergencies such as H1N1 or the Gulf oil spill. As a 24/7 emergency call center service staffed by nurses, pharmacists and physicians, a poison center has staff that is ideally suited to provide these services. A lot of confusion however arises with the name ‘poison center’. The principle questions we get include:
- Why is a poison center providing Flu information?
- Why is a poison center providing radiation information?
- Why is a poison center providing information on oil spills, floods, or boil orders for contaminated water?
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) is very aware of the difficulty with the current name of “Poison Center” and is now looking at a name change. Last year a naming committee task force to be chaired by the Executive Director of the California Poison Control System was formed. It will be a difficult task to find a name that that shows all of what we do today. Fifty years of branding is hard to walk away from.
Yet, with all the services that poison centers provide, the term ‘poison’ just doesn’t seem to fit anymore. If you have any suggestion for a new name for the Illinois Poison Center, please let us know below or on our Facebook page.
Be sure to join the Illinois Poison Center’s Virtual March to Springfield on Facebook today!