Program Performance Measurement

You Have Lowered Length of Stay. Congratulations. You’re Fired.

For several decades, providers working within hospitals have had incentives to reduce stay durations and keep patient flow tip-top. DRG-based and capitated payments expedited that shift. Accompanying the change, physicians became more aware of the potential repercussions of sicker and quicker discharges. They began to monitor their care and as best as possible, use what measures they could ascertain as a proxy for quality (readmissions and hospital acquired conditions). Providers balanced the harms of a continued stay over the benefits of added days, not to mention the need for cost savings. However, the narrow focus on the hospital stay, the first three to seven days of illness, distracted us from the out weeks after discharge. With the acceleration of inpatient episodes, we cast patients to post-acute settings unprepared for the hardship they would face. By the latter, I mean, frailty risk, more reliance on others for help, and a greater need…

George Carlin Predicts Hospital Planning Strategy

My wife and I are planning to add square footage to our house. We want more space. We are considering an office expansion, a guest room, and making the master bedroom more master and less bedroom. The kids are growing, the family is always visiting, and we have no plans to relocate. We also need more space for our stuff. "Everybody's gotta have a little place for their stuff. That's all life is about.  Trying to find a place for your stuff." — George Carlin We added a shed, stuffed the closets, and overloaded the garage. How did we get so much stuff? The average US household has 300,000 things in it. In addition, houses in the US have tripled in size since the 1950s, yet fewer people live inside these homes. We're one of the 25% of American households that have a two-car garage but don't put both cars in there.…

We Are Not Done Changing

Recently, the on-line version of JAMA published an original investigation entitled "Patient Mortality During Unannounced Accreditation Surveys at US Hospitals". The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effect of heightened vigilance during unannounced accreditation surveys on safety and quality of inpatient care. The authors found that there was a significant reduction in mortality in patients admitted during the week of surveys by The Joint Commission. The change was more significant in major teaching hospitals, where mortality fell from 6.41% to 5.93% during survey weeks, a 5.9% relative decrease. The positive effects of being monitored have been well documented in all kinds of arenas, such as hand washing and antibiotic stewardship. But mortality? This is an interesting outcome, especially considering a recent ordeal I went through with my dear sister-in-law. She was on vacation in a somewhat remote location and suffers from a chronic illness, which requires her to…

We Are All Accomplices In The Great American Coding Swindle

"Membership in the American Academy of Professional Coders has risen to more than 170,000 today from roughly 70,000 in 2008." "The AMA owns the copyright to CPT, the code used by doctors. It publishes coding books and dictionaries. It also creates new codes when doctors want to charge for a new procedure. It levies a licensing fee on billing companies for using CPT codes on bills. Royalties for CPT codes, along with revenues from other products, are the association’s biggest single source of income" Aint that something? Okay, I would rank Elizabeth Rosenthal up there with Atul Gawande and Lisa Rosenbaum in the pantheon of standout healthcare writers active today.  They are all docs and have more skill in their writing pinky than I have in my entire body. They have a unique talent in stitching together narratives that speak to both docs and patients in their language--and do it within…

Do Clinicians Understand Quality Metric Data?

The number and complexity of quality metrics within healthcare continues to expand, many of which are used to compare performance between hospitals, systems, and/or clinicians. To make these comparisons fair, many quality reporting agencies attempt to “risk stratify” these metrics, so as not to penalize those caring for higher complexity patients. Although laudable, these attempts also increase the complexity of the data and may reduce the ability of clinicians to understand and analyze quality performance. A recent article in the Journal of Hospital Medicine explores clinicians’ understanding of quality metrics using central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) as an example. The investigators used a unique Twitter-based survey to explore clinicians’ interpretation of basic concepts in public-reported CLABSI rates and ratios. I recently caught up with the lead author, Dr. Sushant Govindan, to better understand his team’s research and its implications for quality reporting. Dr. Govindan is a Pulmonary-Critical Care fellow…
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