Identifying the fundamental structures and processes of care contributing to emergency general surgery quality using a mixed-methods Donabedian approach

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2020 Oct 2;20(1):247. doi: 10.1186/s12874-020-01096-7.


Background: Acute Care Surgery (ACS) was developed as a structured, team-based approach to providing round-the-clock emergency general surgery (EGS) care for adult patients needing treatment for diseases such as cholecystitis, gastrointestinal perforation, and necrotizing fasciitis. Lacking any prior evidence on optimizing outcomes for EGS patients, current implementation of ACS models has been idiosyncratic. We sought to use a Donabedian approach to elucidate potential EGS structures and processes that might be associated with improved outcomes as an initial step in designing the optimal model of ACS care for EGS patients.

Methods: We developed and implemented a national survey of hospital-level EGS structures and processes by surveying surgeons or chief medical officers regarding hospital-level structures and processes that directly or indirectly impacted EGS care delivery in 2015. These responses were then anonymously linked to 2015 data from the American Hospital Association (AHA) annual survey, Medicare Provider Analysis and Review claims (MedPAR), 17 State Inpatient Databases (SIDs) using AHA unique identifiers (AHAID). This allowed us to combine hospital-level data, as reported in our survey or to the AHA, to patient-level data in an effort to further examine the role of EGS structures and processes on EGS outcomes. We describe the multi-step, iterative process utilizing the Donabedian framework for quality measurement that serves as a foundation for later work in this project.

Results: Hospitals that responded to the survey were primarily non-governmental and located in urban settings. A plurality of respondent hospitals had fewer than 100 inpatient beds. A minority of the hospitals had medical school affiliations.

Discussion: Our results will enable us to develop a measure of preparedness for delivering EGS care in the US, provide guidance for regionalized care models for EGS care, tiering of ACS programs based on the robustness of their EGS structures and processes and the quality of their outcomes, and formulate triage guidelines based on patient risk factors and severity of EGS disease.

Conclusions: Our work provides a template for team science applicable to research efforts combining primary data collection (i.e., that derived from our survey) with existing national data sources (i.e., SIDs and MedPAR).

Keywords: Emergency general surgery; Health care organizations and systems; Patient Outcomes; Quality of care/patient safety; Resource use / survey research and questionnaire design / administrative data uses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergencies
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Medicare*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States