Importance: Surgeon-directed knowledge translation (KT) interventions for rectal cancer surgery are designed to improve patient measures, such as rates of permanent colostomy and in-hospital mortality, and to improve survival.
Objective: To evaluate the association of sustained, iterative, integrated KT rectal cancer surgery interventions directed at all surgeons with process and outcome measures among patients undergoing rectal cancer surgery in a geographic region.
Design, setting, and participants: This quality improvement study used administrative data from patients who underwent rectal cancer surgery from April 1, 2004, to March 31, 2015, in 14 health regions in Ontario, Canada. Follow-up was completed on March 31, 2020.
Exposures: Surgeons in 2 regions were offered intensive KT interventions, including annual workshops, audit and feedback sessions, and, in 1 of the 2 regions, operative demonstrations, from 2006 to 2012 (high-intensity KT group). Surgeons in the remaining 12 regions did not receive these interventions (low-intensity KT group).
Main outcomes and measures: Among patients undergoing rectal cancer surgery, proportions of preoperative pelvic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), preoperative radiotherapy, and type of surgery were evaluated, as were in-hospital mortality and overall survival. Logistic regression models with an interaction term between group and year were used to assess whether process measures and in-hospital mortality differed between groups over time.
Results: A total of 15 683 patients were included in the analysis (10 052 [64.1%] male; mean [SD] age, 65.9 [12.1] years), of whom 3762 (24.0%) were in the high-intensity group (2459 [65.4%] male; mean [SD] age, 66.4 [12.0] years) and 11 921 (76.0%) were in the low-intensity KT group (7593 [63.7%] male; mean [SD] age, 65.7 [12.1] years). A total of 1624 patients (43.2%) in the high-intensity group and 4774 (40.0%) in the low-intensity KT group underwent preoperative MRI (P < .001); 1321 (35.1%) and 4424 (37.1%), respectively, received preoperative radiotherapy (P = .03); and 967 (25.7%) and 2365 (19.8%), respectively, received permanent stoma (P < .001). In-hospital mortality was 1.6% (59 deaths) in the high-intensity KT group and 2.2% (258 deaths) in the low-intensity KT group (P = .02). Differences remained significant in multivariable models only for permanent stoma (odds ratio [OR], 1.67; 95% CI, 1.24-2.24; P < .001) and in-hospital mortality (OR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.51-0.87; P = .003). In both groups over time, significant increases in the proportion of patients undergoing preoperative MRI (from 6.3% to 67.1%) and preoperative radiotherapy (from 16.5% to 44.7%) occurred, but there were no significant changes for permanent stoma (25.4% to 25.3% in the high-intensity group and 20.0% to 18.3% in the low-intensity group) and in-hospital mortality (0.8% to 0.8% in the high-intensity group and 2.2% to 1.8% in the low-intensity group). Time trends were similar between groups for measures that did or did not change over time. Patient overall survival was similar between groups (hazard ratio, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.90-1.11; P = .99).
Conclusions and relevance: In this quality improvement study, between-group differences were found in only 2 measures (permanent stoma and in-hospital mortality), but these differences were stable over time. High-intensity KT group interventions were not associated with improved patient measures and outcomes. Proper evaluation of KT or quality improvement interventions may help avoid opportunity costs associated with ineffective strategies.