Belgian Poison Centre impact on healthcare expenses of unintentional poisonings: a cost–benefit analysis

  • Anne-Marie K. DescampsEmail author
  • Peter De Paepe
  • Walter A. Buylaert
  • Martine A. Mostin
  • Dominique M. Vandijck
Original article



This study evaluates the impact of the Belgian Poison Centre (BPC) on national healthcare expenses for calls from the public for unintentional poisonings.


The probability of either calling the BPC, consulting a general practitioner (GP) or consulting an emergency department (ED) was examined in a telephone survey (February–March 2016). Callers were asked what they would have done in case of unavailability of the BPC. The proportion and cost for ED-ambulatory care, ED 24-h observation or hospitalisation were calculated from individual invoices. A cost–benefit analysis was performed.


Unintentional cases (n = 485) from 1045 calls to the BPC were included. After having called the BPC, 92.1% did not seek further medical help, 4.2% consulted a GP and 3.7% went to an ED. In the absence of the BPC, 13.8% would not have sought any further help, 49.3% would have consulted a GP and 36.9% would have gone to the hospital. The cost–benefit ratio of the availability of the BPC as versus its absence was estimated at 5.70.


Financial savings can be made if people first call the BPC for unintentional poisonings.


Poison control centre Cost–benefit ratio Unintentional poisonings Decision tree Healthcare expenses Public health 



Belgian Poison Centre


Emergency department


Emergency department ambulatory care

ED-24 h

Emergency department 24-h observation


Federal Public Service


General practitioner


Ghent University Hospital




Poison Control Centre


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no declarations of interests.


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Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Life SciencesHasselt UniversityDiepenbeekBelgium
  3. 3.Antigifcentrum/Centre AntipoisonsBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.Department of Emergency MedicineGhent University HospitalGhentBelgium
  5. 5.Department of Public Health and Health EconomicsGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  6. 6.Department of Patient Safety and Health Economics, Faculty of Medicine and Life SciencesHasselt UniversityDiepenbeekBelgium

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