Study objective: The Institute of Medicine, through its landmark report concerning errors in medicine, suggests that standardization of practice through systematic development and implementation of evidence-based clinical pathways is an effective way of reducing errors in emergency systems. The specialty of emergency medicine is well positioned to develop a complete system of innovative quality improvement, incorporating best practice guidelines with performance measures and practitioner feedback mechanisms to reduce errors and therefore improve quality of care. This article reviews the construction, ongoing development, and initial impact of such a system at a large, urban, university teaching hospital and at 2 affiliated community hospitals.
Methods: The Committee for Procedural Quality and Evidence-Based Practice was formed within the Department of Emergency Medicine to establish evidence-based guidelines for nursing and provider care. The committee measures the effect of such guidelines, along with other quality measures, through pre- and postguideline patient care medical record audits. These measures are fed back to the providers in a provider-specific, peer-matched "scorecard."
Results: The Committee for Procedural Quality and Evidence-Based Practice affects practice and performance within our department. Multiple physician and nursing guidelines have been developed and put into use. Using asthma as an example, time to first nebulizer treatment and time to disposition from the emergency department decreased. Initial therapeutic agent changed and documentation improved.
Conclusion: A comprehensive, guideline-driven, evidence-based approach to clinical practice is feasible within the structure of a department of emergency medicine. High-level departmental support with dedicated personnel is necessary for the success of such a system. Internet site development (available at http://www.CPQE.com) for product storage has proven valuable. Patient care has been improved in several ways; however, consistent and complete change in provider behavior remains elusive. Physician scorecards may play a role in altering these phenomena. Emergency medicine can play a leadership role in the development of quality improvement, error reduction, and pay-for-performance systems.