A new study by University of North Carolina School of Medicine researchers finds that an alcohol detoxification protocol they developed led to a statistically significant decrease in the number of admissions per month.

“Our main goal for the project was to standardize our hospitalist group’s care for a clinical problem we had found very challenging. But as we implemented the change, we also studied the impact on number of admissions for these patients and found a meaningful decrease,” John R. Stephens, M.D., associate professor in the School of Medicine and lead author of the study, which was published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, said in a statement.

The protocol is set forth in a one-page flow chart clinicians use to guide their decision-making process. After the protocol was implemented at UNC Hospitals, the average number of alcohol-related admissions per month dropped from 18.9 to 15.9. Each hospital admission for a primary alcohol-related diagnosis generates costs estimated at $8,742 per case, so a reduction of three admissions per month would generate cost savings of $315,000 per year, according to the study.

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