Background: Mortality rates for patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) vary substantially across hospitals, even when adjusted for patient severity; however, little is known about hospital factors that may influence this variation.
Objective: To identify factors that may be related to better performance in AMI care, as measured by risk-standardized mortality rates.
Design: Qualitative study that used site visits and in-depth interviews.
Setting: Eleven U.S. hospitals that ranked in either the top or the bottom 5% in risk-standardized mortality rates for 2 recent years of data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (2005 to 2006 and 2006 to 2007), with diversity among hospitals in key characteristics.
Participants: 158 members of hospital staff, all of whom were involved with AMI care at the 11 hospitals.
Measurements: Site visits and in-depth interviews conducted with hospital staff during 2009. A multidisciplinary team performed analyses by using the constant comparative method.
Results: Hospitals in the high-performing and low-performing groups differed substantially in the domains of organizational values and goals, senior management involvement, broad staff presence and expertise in AMI care, communication and coordination among groups, and problem solving and learning. Participants described diverse protocols or processes for AMI care (such as rapid response teams, clinical guidelines, use of hospitalists, and medication reconciliation); however, these did not systematically differentiate high-performing from low-performing hospitals.
Limitation: The qualitative design informed the generation of hypotheses, and statistical associations could not be assessed.
Conclusion: High-performing hospitals were characterized by an organizational culture that supported efforts to improve AMI care across the hospital. Evidence-based protocols and processes, although important, may not be sufficient for achieving high hospital performance in care for patients with AMI.
Primary funding source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, United Health Foundation, and the Commonwealth Fund.