Thursday, October 1, 2009

How to Reduce Hospital Stays and Increase Patient Satisfaction

MAYWOOD, Il. -- A Loyola University Health System study has found that high-risk surgery patients experienced significantly shorter hospital stays when they were seen by general internists trained in managing medical complications in surgical patients.

Patients who underwent high-risk orthopaedic surgeries experienced shorter stays when their care was co-managed by hospitalists and their surgeons. And, the study found, patients reported they were treated by doctors with more courtesy and respect.

The study was published in the July, 2009 issue of the journal Orthopedics.

"We accomplished significant improvements in efficiency and quality in the care of complex surgical patients," said lead author Dr. Michael Pinzur, professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

"Our cost of care also was significantly less than that of other academic medical centers," Pinzur added. "And the sicker the patients, the greater the savings."

Researchers followed 86 of Pinzur's high-risk surgical patients who were co-managed by hospitalists from the Division of General Internal Medicine. These patients were compared with 54 similar patients who underwent surgery before the co-management program began.

A hospitalist is a physician, typically an internist, who specializes in the care of hospital patients. A hospitalist cares for the patient in place of the patient's primary care physician while the patient is in the hospital. The hospitalist coordinates and oversees care of the patient's medical problems, and is the contact person for the family.

Researchers calculated the ratio of how long a patient stayed compared with how long such a patient would be expected to stay at a major teaching hospital. A ratio lower than 1.0 means the patient had a shorter-than-expected stay.

Before the co-management program began, patients had a length-of-stay ratio of 0.86. After the program began, the ratio dropped to 0.69. Hospitalist patients stayed an average of 3.8 days, compared with an expected stay of 5.5 days.

"We're getting patients out of the hospital almost two days earlier," Pinzur said.

In the co-management group, 76 percent of patients said their doctors always communicated well, and 90 percent said they were treated with courtesy and respect. In the non-hospitalist group, 71 percent said doctors communicated well and 76 percent said they were treated with courtesy and respect.

The study included patients who underwent complex procedures such as foot reconstructions, and had risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart and kidney problems.

At Loyola University Medical Center, hospitalists begin caring for Pinzur's high-risk patients before surgery, and stay with the patients until they are discharged. "We're providing more coordinated care for patients all the way through," said study co-author Dr. Edward Gurza, a hospitalist and director of the Division of General Internal Medicine.

Before surgery, the hospitalist does a complete history and physical and risk assessment of the patient. The hospitalist often detects conditions that could be stabilized before surgery, as well as starting proven preventive measures. The study found that in the hospitalist group, 10 percent of surgeries were delayed while hospitalists treated such problems.

"Hospitalists get patients in optimal condition before surgery, so they're less prone to problems after surgery," Pinzur said.

The other co-authors, all at Loyola, are Michael Wall, director of quality measurement; Anne Porter, vice president of quality and patient safety; internists Dr. Theresa Kristopaitis and Dr. Rebecca Monson; nurse practitioner Victoria Davidson-Bell and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Timothy Rapp.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.