Cost containment in cardiac surgery: results with a critical pathway for coronary bypass surgery at the New York hospital-Cornell Medical Center

Best Pract Benchmarking Healthc. 1996 Jan-Feb;1(1):21-8.


Purpose: A multidisciplinary project was undertaken at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center to develop critical pathways for open-heart surgery to help reduce cost, shorten hospital length of stay (LOS), and streamline patient care.

Methods: A critical pathway for elective coronary artery bypass grafting instituted on March 1, 1995, was developed through a cooperative effort involving surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, social workers, physical therapists, nutritionists, and patient case managers. Prospective data collected on consecutive patients forming a critical pathway group (n = 114) over a 6-month period were compared with retrospective data on consecutive patients forming a cohort group (n = 382) who underwent elective coronary artery bypass grafting in 1994.

Results: The critical pathway group of patients experienced a significantly shorter total hospital LOS (7.7 +/- 2.3 days vs 11.1 +/- 6 days, p < 0.0001) and shorter intensive care unit LOS (1.5 +/- 0.9 days vs 2.0 +/- 2.8 days, p < 0.0001). Direct costs were computed by use of hospital charges multiplied by the Medicare cost-to-charge ratio. Mean hospital direct cost (ancillary resources) was $1181 lower in the critical pathway group when compared with the control group (p < 0.0001). The postoperative mortality and readmission rates were similar for the two groups of patients.

Conclusions: The ongoing analysis of cost, LOSs, and outcomes has made possible a process of continuous quality improvement on the cardiothoracic service in which further areas for improvement are identified and studied. The use of a critical pathway for elective coronary artery bypass grafting at our institution significantly reduced hospital LOS and direct costs while maintaining the overall quality of patient care.

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Artery Bypass / economics*
  • Coronary Artery Bypass / nursing
  • Cost Savings / methods
  • Critical Pathways / organization & administration*
  • Hospital Costs*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Management Quality Circles*
  • New York City
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • Program Development
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies