The association of quality of care and occurrence of in-hospital, treatment-related complications

Med Care. 1999 Feb;37(2):140-8. doi: 10.1097/00005650-199902000-00004.


Background: Little data exist supporting the association of quality of care and nonfatal adverse outcomes in hospitalized patients, yet those outcomes are routinely scrutinized in quality assessment efforts.

Objective: To determine whether measurable differences in quality of care are associated with the occurrence of non-fatal, in-hospital, and treatment-related complications.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Subjects: A total of 2,268 patients who were discharged alive from 9 Southwestern Veterans Affairs Medical Centers with congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or diabetes mellitus.

Measures: Retrospective chart review was performed to collect information on patient severity of illness, in-hospital complication occurrence, and process quality of care. Process quality was assessed as the adherence scores for admission work-up and for treatment during the hospital stay. Process quality represents the proportion of applicable admission or treatment criteria that were met by that patient's care providers. Once severity of illness was taken into account Cox proportional hazards regression was used to assess the independent contribution of process quality of care to complication occurrence.

Results: Higher admission work-up adherence scores for COPD patients and higher treatment adherence scores for COPD and diabetes patients were associated with a lower risk of complication occurrence. The adjusted risk ratios of complications for higher versus lower adherence scores (with 95% CI) were 0.64 (0.43, 0.97) and 0.52 (0.33, 0.80) for admission and treatment, respectively, in COPD patients, and 0.51 (0.31, 0.83) for treatment in diabetics. No significant association was found in CHF patients.

Conclusion: Better admission work-up and treatment quality in COPD patients, as well as treatment quality in diabetic patients, are associated with lower risk of nonfatal treatment-related complications in the study population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Heart Failure / therapy
  • Hospitals, Veterans / standards*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Incidence
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / complications*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / therapy
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Discharge
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Southwestern United States / epidemiology