Effects of a pneumonia clinical pathway on time to antibiotic treatment, length of stay, and mortality

Acad Emerg Med. 1999 Dec;6(12):1243-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1999.tb00140.x.


Objectives: A clinical pathway standardizing management for patients with an admission diagnosis of pneumonia was initiated after a previous study found delayed time to initial antibiotic administration, a longer length of stay, and higher mortality rate for the authors' patients as compared with those in a "benchmark" hospital. The current study was undertaken to determine whether implementation of the clinical pathway resulted in statistically significant decreases for these measures, both in the initial year following pathway implementation and two years later.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was completed for three cohorts of pneumonia patients admitted via the ED: 1) three months immediately prior to pathway implementation, 2) 10-12 months after implementation of the pathway, and 3) 34-36 months after implementation of the pathway. Four standard antibiotic regimens were used following pathway implementation: community-acquired, community-acquired penicillin-allergic, nursing home-acquired, and nursing home-acquired penicillin-allergic. Demographics, medical history, presentation signs and symptoms, process of care, and outcome data were abstracted from each patient's medical record.

Results: The mean time to antibiotic administration decreased from 315 minutes prepathway to approximately 175 minutes during the first postpathway period and 171 minutes at three years (ANOVA, p < 0.0001). The percentage of patients who received antibiotics in the ED increased from 58% prepathway to 94% during the first postpathway period and 97% at three years (chi square, p < 0.0001). Length of stay decreased from 9.7 prepathway to 8.9 days during the first postpathway period and 6.4 days at three years (ANOVA, p < 0.0001). There was no significant change of in-hospital mortality (9.6% prepathway to 5.2% and 4.9%) in the two respective periods.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates that implementation of a pneumonia clinical pathway for the management of hospitalized patients admitted via the ED decreases the time to initial antibiotic treatment and increases the proportion of patients initially treated with antibiotics in the ED. These effects were evident in the first year following pathway implementation and sustained at the three-year study interval.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Critical Pathways / standards*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality / trends*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Pennsylvania
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia / mortality*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time and Motion Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents