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High Number of Health Care Encounters Seen for Tap Water Scalds

Furthermore, from 2016 to 2018, tap water scald burns cost $206.7 million in direct health care costs

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 9, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Tap water scald burns cause a high number of costly health care visits in the United States, according to a study published online March 7 in Injury Prevention.

Wendy Shields, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues used the 2016 to 2018 National Inpatient Sample and Nationwide Emergency Department Sample from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project to identify 52,088 emergency department visits, 7,270 hospitalizations, and 110 deaths directly attributable to tap water scald burns.

The researchers found that the average cost for each encounter was $572 per emergency department visit and $28,431 per hospitalization. Overall, the direct health care cost of these initial encounters was $206.69 million for inpatient visits and $29.79 million for emergency department visits, of which Medicare paid $109.54 million and Medicaid paid $18.3 million. In 35.4 percent of inpatient visits and 16.1 percent of emergency department visits, multiple body surfaces were involved.

“Tap water scalds remain a serious and costly public health burden despite the utilization of educational efforts, voluntary industry actions, warning language requirements, and preset thermostats on water heaters,” the authors write. “Ensuring the installation of thermostatic mixing valves during installation of new water heaters is a practical, cost-effective strategy to eliminate tap water scald burns in the United States.”

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