Purpose: Quality improvement and disease management programs for heart failure have improved quality of care and patient outcomes at large tertiary care hospitals. The purpose of this study was to measure the effects of a regional, multihospital, collaborative quality improvement intervention on care and outcomes in heart failure in community hospitals.
Patients and methods: This randomized controlled study included 10 acute care community hospitals in upstate New York. After a baseline period, 5 hospitals were randomly assigned to receive a multifaceted quality improvement intervention (n = 762 patients during the baseline period; n = 840 patients postintervention), while 5 were assigned to a "usual care" control (n = 640 patients during the baseline period; n = 664 patients postintervention). Quality of care was determined using explicit criteria by reviewing the charts of consecutive patients hospitalized with the primary diagnosis of heart failure during the baseline period and again in the postintervention period. Clinical outcomes included hospital length of stay and charges, in-hospital and 6-month mortality, hospital readmission, and quality of life measured after discharge.
Results: Patients had similar characteristics in the baseline and postintervention phases in the intervention and control groups. Using hospital-level analyses, the intervention had mixed effects on 5 quality-of-care markers that were not statistically significant. The mean of the average length of stay among hospitals decreased from 8.0 to 6.2 days in the intervention group, with a smaller decline in mean length of stay in the control group (7.7 to 7.0 days). The net effects of the intervention were nonsignificant changes in length of stay of -1.1 days (95% confidence interval [CI]: -2.9 to 0.7 days, P = 0.18) and in hospital charges of -$817 (95% CI: -$2560 to $926, P = 0.31). There were small and nonsignificant effects on mortality, hospital readmission, and quality of life.
Conclusions: The incremental effect of regional collaboration among peer community hospitals toward the goal of quality improvement was small and limited to a slightly, but not significantly, shorter length of stay.