But take a look anyway, if you have an interest in process improvement in hospitals. This is a collection of my best posts on this topic.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Timidity in Massachusetts

Over three years ago, while posting our rate of central infections, I asked the following questions:

If I can post these rates for BIDMC, why can't people from other hospitals? ... Why can't the insurance companies? ... Why can't the state of Massachusetts? ... Real-time public disclosure of key indicators like this ... can be mutually instructive and can help provide an incentive to all of us to do better.

Well, Massachusetts is getting passed by on this front. Here is a presentation showing the rate of central line infections for all of the hospitals in Illinois for 2009. If you sort on the column "infections per 1,000 central line days" by clicking on that header, you will find 50 hospitals with zero infections, and 31 more with fewer than one per 1,000.

This kind of presentation does not require state action. The Massachusetts hospitals could together decide to do this voluntarily. We all collect the data for our own hospitals. It would impose no administrative burden to forward it for publication to a collective website. (Look here to see BIDMC's figure, posted every quarter.)

What more persuasive way to demonstrate to the public and to legislators that we collectively are serious about eliminating one important form of hospital acquired infection? That we are willing to be held individually and collectively accountable to a standard of care to reduce harm to patients? That we likewise are willing to be held to a standard of care that also saves dollars for an overburdened health care system?

Look at this related story in the Chicago Tribune. An excerpt:

Ten years ago, Dr. Bob Chase would have laughed if someone had told him common infections could be eliminated in hospitals' intensive care units.

"I would have said that's ridiculous, not possible," he said. "As a physician, I was trained to believe bad things just happen."

But Chase, vice president of quality at Norwegian American Hospital in Chicago, doesn't think that anymore. A growing body of research has convinced him that many infections can be prevented if proper procedures are rigorously followed — evidence he's using to reduce higher-than-expected infection rates at his own institution.

The research is prompting a wave of improvements in hospital ICUs, and patients are starting to benefit: At many hospitals, the rates of some common infections have been cut in half or more, saving lives and money and preventing medical complications.

Why are the health care leaders in Massachusetts so timid on this issue?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Not enough, AHA

The American Hospital Association does excellent work in representing the views and interests of hospitals across America, and it genuinely seeks to help frame medical and hospital issues in a way that serves the public interest.

But because it is a membership-based organization, it can be hard to be as aggressive on some issues as the times call for. One such discussion is going on right now. The Association is considering a number of strategic performance commitments, one of which is to "advance a health care delivery system that improves health and health care."

I can't argue against that goal, but the manner in which it would be pursued and quantified is weak. See the slide above. It is the draft of what is being discussed by hospital associations across the country.

The first two items are certainly worthy, but the manner in which they are measured is problematic. The metric is a three-year running average produced by CMS and published a year after the year is over. Accordingly, no one will know if the 2012 target is met until 2014.

Why rely on administrative data collected by CMS when every hospital has its own data in real time? Why use a three-year rolling average when we are trying to demonstrate progress over the coming year or two?

The third goal, to achieve improvements in central line infection rates, is simply inadequate on its face. The idea of taking three years to move from the 2009 baseline of 5 cases per thousand patient days to a new target of 1 in 2012 does not reflect the deadliness of hospital acquired infections nor the progress that any hospital can make to reduce them in just in a few months.

The target for central line infections should be zero. That is the only intellectually compelling goal. The time period for doing this should be much, much shorter.