All healthcare systems show variation in the quality of care provided, whether that means access to primary care services,1 ambulance response times,2 Accident & Emergency waiting times3 or treatment processes and outcomes.4–6 Monitoring this variation in quality can serve multiple purposes: informing patients about where best to seek care;7 allowing clinicians to compare their performance with that of their peers and thus identify targets for local-level quality improvement efforts, and supporting the development of national policy. Though, what all these have in common is a trust in the reliability of the data to adequately reflect healthcare quality—sometimes a questionable assumption.
In BMJ Quality and Safety, Hofstede et al8 have addressed a common situation where providers (such as hospitals, general practices or community teams) are ranked according to their performance on a quality indicator....
This issue of BMJQuality & Safety presents a study conducted at the University of Michigan to evaluate ‘video reflexivity’ (VR, also referred to as VRE or ‘video-reflexive ethnography’) as a means for intervening in how physicians and nurses work together.1 The study found ‘increased reflection in both nurse and physician participants’, an outcome also reported (among other things) in related studies from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.2–6 ‘Increased reflection’ may not set the hearts and minds of quality and safety experts on fire. And yet this finding is significant.
Consider that healthcare improvement initiatives, patient safety research and system-wide implementation programmes have to come to terms with the implications of rising care complexity. This rise in complexity is due to increasing multimorbidity, mobility and migration, ageing, public assertiveness, technological advances, staff turnover, mounting information,...
Adverse drug events among older adults are common and serious. Approximately 9% of all hospital admissions for older adults are attributable to adverse drug reactions.1 Moreover, up to one in five adults experience an adverse drug reaction during hospitalisation,2 3 and approximately 15%–50% of hospitalised older adults will suffer an adverse drug event within 30 days of returning home (with most of these events resulting from medications that were started in the hospital).4–6 If our goal is primum non nocere (‘first, do no harm’), we have substantial opportunities for improvement.
A variety of interventions have been attempted to stem this tide of medication-induced harm, with variable success, and no clear path for hitting the sweet spot of meaningfully improving clinical outcomes related to medication use in a manner than is clinically scalable and cost-effective.7–12
Despite widespread use of quality indicators, it remains unclear to what extent they can reliably distinguish hospitals on true differences in performance. Rankability measures what part of variation in performance reflects ‘true’ hospital differences in outcomes versus random noise.Objective
This study sought to assess whether combining data into composites or including data from multiple years improves the reliability of ranking quality indicators for hospital care.Methods
Using the Dutch National Medical Registration (2007–2012) for stroke, colorectal carcinoma, heart failure, acute myocardial infarction and total hiparthroplasty (THA)/ total knee arthroplasty (TKA) in osteoarthritis (OA), we calculated the rankability for in-hospital mortality, 30-day acute readmission and prolonged length of stay (LOS) for single years and 3-year periods and for a dichotomous and ordinal composite measure in which mortality, readmission and prolonged LOS were combined. Rankability, defined as (between-hospital variation/between-hospital+within hospital variation)x100% is classified as low (<50%), moderate (50%–75%) and high (>75%).Results
Admissions from 555 053 patients treated in 95 hospitals were included. The rankability for mortality was generally low or moderate, varying from less than 1% for patients with OA undergoing THA/TKA in 2011 to 71% for stroke in 2010. Rankability for acute readmission was low, except for acute myocardial infarction in 2009 (51%) and 2012 (62%). Rankability for prolonged LOS was at least moderate. Combining multiple years improved rankability but still remained low in eight cases for both mortality and acute readmission. Combining the individual indicators into the dichotomous composite, all diagnoses had at least moderate rankability (range: 51%–96%). For the ordinal composite, only heart failure had low rankability (46% in 2008) (range: 46%–95%).Conclusion
Combining multiple years or into multiple indicators results in more reliable ranking of hospitals, particularly compared with mortality and acute readmission in single years, thereby improving the ability to detect true hospital differences. The composite measures provide more information and more reliable rankings than combining multiple years of individual indicators.
We previously reported reduction in the rate of hospitalisations with medication harm among older adults with our ‘Pharm2Pharm’ intervention, a pharmacist-led care transition and care coordination model focused on best practices in medication management. The objectives of the current study are to determine the extent to which medication harm among older inpatients is ‘community acquired’ versus ‘hospital acquired’ and to assess the effectiveness of the Pharm2Pharm model with each type.Methods
After a 3-year baseline, six non-federal general acute care hospitals with 50 or more beds in Hawaii implemented Pharm2Pharm sequentially. The other five such hospitals served as the comparison group. We measured frequencies and quarterly rates of admissions among those aged 65 and older with ‘community-acquired’ (International Classification of Diseases-coded as present on admission) and ‘hospital-acquired’ (coded as not present on admission) medication harm per 1000 admissions from 2010 to 2014.Results
There were 189 078 total admissions from 2010 through 2014, 7% of which had one or more medication harm codes. There were 16 225 medication harm codes, 70% of which were community-acquired, among these 13 795 admissions. The varied times when the intervention was implemented across hospitals were associated with a significant reduction in the rate of admissions with community-acquired medication harm compared with non-intervention hospitals (p=0.001), and specifically harm by anticoagulants (p<0.0001) and by medications in therapeutic use (p<0.001). The hospital-acquired medication harm rate did not change. The rate of admissions with community-acquired medication harm was reduced by 4.28 admissions per 1000 admissions per quarter in the Pharm2Pharm hospitals relative to the comparison hospitals.Conclusion
The Pharm2Pharm model is an effective way to address the growing problem of community-acquired medication harm among high-risk, chronically ill patients. This model demonstrates the importance of deploying specially trained pharmacists in the hospital and in the community to systematically identify and resolve drug therapy problems.
Middle-aged and older adults requiring skilled home healthcare (‘home health’) services following hospital discharge are at high risk of experiencing suboptimal outcomes. Information management (IM) needed to organise and communicate care plans is critical to ensure safety. Little is known about IM during this transition.Objectives
(1) Describe the current IM process (activity goals, subactivities, information required, information sources/targets and modes of communication) from home health providers’ perspectives and (2) Identify IM-related process failures.Methods
Multisite qualitative study. We performed semistructured interviews and direct observations with 33 home health administrative staff, 46 home health providers, 60 middle-aged and older adults, and 40 informal caregivers during the preadmission process and initial home visit. Data were analysed to generate themes and information flow diagrams.Results
We identified four IM goals during the preadmission process: prepare referral document and inform agency; verify insurance; contact adult and review case to schedule visit. We identified four IM goals during the initial home visit: assess appropriateness and obtain consent; manage expectations; ensure safety and develop contingency plans. We identified IM-related process failures associated with each goal: home health providers and adults with too much information (information overload); home health providers without complete information (information underload); home health coordinators needing information from many places (information scatter); adults’ and informal caregivers’ mismatched expectations regarding home health services (information conflict) and home health providers encountering inaccurate information (erroneous information).Conclusions
IM for hospital-to-home health transitions is complex, yet key for patient safety. Organisational infrastructure is needed to support IM. Future clinical workflows and health information technology should be designed to mitigate IM-related process failures to facilitate safer hospital-to-home health transitions.
Although sometimes appropriate, antipsychotic medications are associated with increased risk of significant adverse events. In 2014, a series of newspaper articles describing high prescribing rates in nursing homes in Ontario, Canada, garnered substantial interest. Subsequently, an online public reporting initiative with home-level data was launched. We examined the impact of these public reporting interventions on antipsychotic prescribing in nursing homes.Methods
Time series analysis of all nursing home residents in Ontario, Canada, between 1 October 2013 and 31 March 2016. The primary outcome was the proportion of residents prescribed antipsychotics each month. Balance measures were prescriptions for common alternative sedating agents (benzodiazepines and/or trazodone). We used segmented regression to assess the effects on prescription trends of the newspaper articles and the online home-level public reporting initiative.Results
We included 120 009 nursing home resident admissions across 636 nursing homes. Following the newspaper articles, the proportion of residents prescribed an antipsychotic decreased by 1.28% (95% CI 1.08% to 1.48%) and continued to decrease at a rate of 0.2% per month (95% CI 0.16% to 0.24%). The online public reporting initiative did not alter this trend. Over 3 years, there was a net absolute reduction in antipsychotic prescribing of 6.0% (95% CI 5.1% to 6.9%). Trends for benzodiazepine prescribing did not change as substantially during the period of observation. Trazodone use has been gradually increasing, but its use did not change abruptly at the time of the mass media report or the public reporting initiative.Interpretation
The rapid impact of mass media on prescribing suggests both an opportunity to use this approach to invoke change and a warning to ensure that such reporting occurs responsibly.
Hospital-acquired pressure injuries are localised skin injuries that cause significant mortality and are costly. Nursing best practices prevent pressure injuries, including time-consuming, complex tasks that lack payment incentives. The Braden Scale is an evidence-based stratification tool nurses use daily to assess pressure-injury risk. Our objective was to analyse the cost-utility of performing repeated risk-assessment for pressure-injury prevention in all patients or high-risk groups.Design
Cost-utility analysis using Markov modelling from US societal and healthcare sector perspectives within a 1-year time horizon.Setting
Patient-level longitudinal data on 34 787 encounters from an academic hospital electronic health record (EHR) between 2011 and 2014, including daily Braden scores. Supervised machine learning simulated age-adjusted transition probabilities between risk levels and pressure injuries.Participants
Hospitalised adults with Braden scores classified into five risk levels: very high risk (6–9), high risk (10–11), moderate risk (12–14), at-risk (15–18), minimal risk (19–23).Interventions
Standard care, repeated risk assessment in all risk levels or only repeated risk assessment in high-risk strata based on machine-learning simulations.Main outcome measures
Costs (2016 $US) of pressure-injury treatment and prevention, and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) related to pressure injuries were weighted by transition probabilities to calculate the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) at $100 000/QALY willingness-to-pay. Univariate and probabilistic sensitivity analyses tested model uncertainty.Results
Simulating prevention for all patients yielded greater QALYs at higher cost from societal and healthcare sector perspectives, equating to ICERs of $2000/QALY and $2142/QALY, respectively. Risk-stratified follow-up in patients with Braden scores <15 dominated standard care. Prevention for all patients was cost-effective in >99% of probabilistic simulations.Conclusion
Our analysis using EHR data maintains that pressure-injury prevention for all inpatients is cost-effective. Hospitals should invest in nursing compliance with international prevention guidelines.
Healthcare is approaching a tipping point as burnout and dissatisfaction with work-life integration (WLI) in healthcare workers continue to increase. A scale evaluating common behaviours as actionable examples of WLI was introduced to measure work-life balance.Objectives
(1) Explore differences in WLI behaviours by role, specialty and other respondent demographics in a large healthcare system. (2) Evaluate the psychometric properties of the work-life climate scale, and the extent to which it acts like a climate, or group-level norm when used at the work setting level. (3) Explore associations between work-life climate and other healthcare climates including teamwork, safety and burnout.Methods
Cross-sectional survey study completed in 2016 of US healthcare workers within a large academic healthcare system.Results
10 627 of 13 040 eligible healthcare workers across 440 work settings within seven entities of a large healthcare system (81% response rate) completed the routine safety culture survey. The overall work-life climate scale internal consistency was α=0.830. WLI varied significantly among healthcare worker role, length of time in specialty and work setting. Random effects analyses of variance for the work-life climate scale revealed significant between-work setting and within-work setting variance and intraclass correlations reflected clustering at the work setting level. T-tests of top versus bottom WLI quartile work settings revealed that positive work-life climate was associated with better teamwork and safety climates, as well as lower personal burnout and burnout climate (p<0.001).Conclusion
Problems with WLI are common in healthcare workers and differ significantly based on position and time in specialty. Although typically thought of as an individual difference variable, WLI appears to operate as a climate, and is consistently associated with better safety culture norms.
Progress in reducing diagnostic errors remains slow partly due to poorly defined methods to identify errors, high-risk situations, and adverse events. Electronic trigger (e-trigger) tools, which mine vast amounts of patient data to identify signals indicative of a likely error or adverse event, offer a promising method to efficiently identify errors. The increasing amounts of longitudinal electronic data and maturing data warehousing techniques and infrastructure offer an unprecedented opportunity to implement new types of e-trigger tools that use algorithms to identify risks and events related to the diagnostic process. We present a knowledge discovery framework, the Safer Dx Trigger Tools Framework, that enables health systems to develop and implement e-trigger tools to identify and measure diagnostic errors using comprehensive electronic health record (EHR) data. Safer Dx e-trigger tools detect potential diagnostic events, allowing health systems to monitor event rates, study contributory factors and identify targets for improving diagnostic safety. In addition to promoting organisational learning, some e-triggers can monitor data prospectively and help identify patients at high-risk for a future adverse event, enabling clinicians, patients or safety personnel to take preventive actions proactively. Successful application of electronic algorithms requires health systems to invest in clinical informaticists, information technology professionals, patient safety professionals and clinicians, all of who work closely together to overcome development and implementation challenges. We outline key future research, including advances in natural language processing and machine learning, needed to improve effectiveness of e-triggers. Integrating diagnostic safety e-triggers in institutional patient safety strategies can accelerate progress in reducing preventable harm from diagnostic errors.
Despite decades of research and interventions, poor communication between physicians and nurses continues to be a primary contributor to adverse events in the hospital setting and a major challenge to improving patient safety. The lack of progress suggests that it is time to consider alternative approaches with greater potential to identify and improve communication than those used to date. We conducted a formative evaluation to assess the feasibility, acceptability and utility of using video reflexive ethnography (VRE) to examine, and potentially improve, communication between nurses and physicians.Methods
We begin with a brief description of the institutional review boardapproval process and recruitment activities, then explain how we conducted the formative evaluation by describing (1) the VRE process itself; (2) our assessment of the exposure to the VRE process; and (3) challenges encountered and lessons learnt as a result of the process, along with suggestions for change.Results
Our formative evaluation demonstrates that it is feasible and acceptable to video-record communication between physicians and nurses during patient care rounds across many units at a large, academic medical centre. The lessons that we learnt helped to identify procedural changes for future projects. We also discuss the broader application of this methodology as a possible strategy for improving other important quality and safety practices in healthcare settings.Conclusions
The VRE process did generate increased reflection in both nurse and physician participants. Moreover, VRE has utility in assessing communication and, based on the comments of our participants, can serve as an intervention to possibly improve communication, with implications for patient safety.
Hemming et al (‘Ethical Implications of Excessive Cluster Sizes in Cluster Randomized Trials’, 20 February 2018) cite the FIRST Trial as an example of a ‘higher risk’ cluster-randomised trial in which large cluster sizes pose unjustifiable excess risk.1 The authors state, ‘[t]he obvious way to reduce the cluster size in this study is to reduce the duration of the trial.’
We believe this to be an inappropriate recommendation stemming from an inaccurate appraisal of the FIRST Trial.
The FIRST Trial was designed to inform a potential policy change in US resident duty hours. In the Statistical Analysis Plan (SAP), which was made available at www.nejm.org, we clearly and prospectively stated, ‘[t]his study is a trial-based evaluation of potential policy effects on patient safety and resident wellbeing... this study is intended to inform real-world policy decision-making with respect to resident duty hours regulation.’2 The...
We would like to thank the authors of the FIRST trial for responding to our paper on ‘Ethical implications of excessive cluster sizes in cluster randomised trials’.1 We are pleased that our paper has generated this interest. The science and methodology of trial design are constantly evolving and will evolve faster, to the future benefit of science, if we can openly reflect on how things have been done in the past and how we might do things differently in the future. We used the FIRST trial as a case study in our analysis as we believed it demonstrated potential for a more efficient design.
The FIRST authors make some valid points about pragmatic trials and large cluster sizes, that being that there are multiple factors to consider when designing trials. However, generalisability refers to the replication of the study results across different populations. Very large trials in...