Background: In an ongoing study, a randomized, controlled trial is being conducted on the effects of a collaborative quality improvement program on practice patterns and patient outcomes regarding congestive heart failure (CHF) in community hospitals in upstate New York. CHF is associated with severe morbidity and mortality, with annual rates of death exceeding 50% among patients with the most severe disease.
Phase i: Phase I of the study was designed to model the processes of care and outcomes, develop valid disease-specific risk adjustment techniques, and target areas for quality improvement (QI) intervention. Beginning April 1, 1995, and ending December 31, 1995, baseline data were collected during hospitalization and for six months postdischarge for all 1,402 consecutive patients assigned diagnosis-related groups (DRGs) 127 and 124. Preliminary analyses revealed high rates of hospital readmission (46%) and postdischarge death (18%), with significant interhospital variation.
Qi initiatives: Initiatives include educational programs on CHF, feedback of Phase I data to clinicians and administrators, design and implementation of a clinical care pathway, improvement of the emergency department (prehospital) phase of CHF management, and improvement in patient education and discharge planning.
Summary and conclusions: The study suggests that community hospitals, many without extensive experience in clinical investigation, can voluntarily collaborate to design and implement a timely QI initiative that is evidence based, clinically relevant, and scientifically sound. Preliminary results have led to better understanding of the processes of care and determinants of outcome for patients with heart failure. Phase II of the study should yield insights into the providers' response to a locally derived intervention and the effects of such a program on patient outcomes.