“Shocked” wouldn’t be accurate, since we were accustomed to our uninsured patients' receiving inadequate medical care. “Saddened” wasn’t right, either, only pecking at the edge of our response. And “disheartened” just smacked of victimhood. After hearing this story, we were neither shocked nor saddened nor disheartened. We were simply appalled. We met Tommy Davis in our hospital’s clinic for indigent persons in March 2013 (the name and date have been changed to protect the patient’s privacy). He and his wife had been chronically uninsured despite working full-time jobs and were now facing disastrous consequences. The week before this appointment, Mr. . . .
Background Concerns persist regarding the effect of current surgical resident duty-hour policies on patient outcomes, resident education, and resident well-being. Methods We conducted a national, cluster-randomized, pragmatic, noninferiority trial involving 117 general surgery residency programs in the United States (2014-2015 academic year). Programs were randomly assigned to current Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) duty-hour policies (standard-policy group) or more flexible policies that waived rules on maximum shift lengths and time off between shifts (flexible-policy group). Outcomes included the 30-day rate of postoperative death or serious complications (primary outcome), other postoperative complications, and resident perceptions and satisfaction regarding their well-being, education, and patient care. Results In an analysis of data from 138,691 patients, flexible, less-restrictive duty-hour policies were not associated with an increased rate of death or serious complications (9.1% in the flexible-policy group and 9.0% in the standard-policy group, P=0.92; unadjusted odds ratio for the flexible-policy group, 0.96; 92% confidence interval, 0.87 to 1.06; P=0.44; noninferiority criteria satisfied) or of any secondary postoperative outcomes studied. Among 4330 residents, those in programs assigned to flexible policies did not report significantly greater dissatisfaction with overall education quality (11.0% in the flexible-policy group and 10.7% in the standard-policy group, P=0.86) or well-being (14.9% and 12.0%, respectively; P=0.10). Residents under flexible policies were less likely than those under standard policies to perceive negative effects of duty-hour policies on multiple aspects of patient safety, continuity of care, professionalism, and resident education but were more likely to perceive negative effects on personal activities. There were no significant differences between study groups in resident-reported perception of the effect of fatigue on personal or patient safety. Residents in the flexible-policy group were less likely than those in the standard-policy group to report leaving during an operation (7.0% vs. 13.2%, P<0.001) or handing off active patient issues (32.0% vs. 46.3%, P<0.001). Conclusions As compared with standard duty-hour policies, flexible, less-restrictive duty-hour policies for surgical residents were associated with noninferior patient outcomes and no significant difference in residents' satisfaction with overall well-being and education quality. (FIRST ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02050789 .).
Background Whether arthroscopic partial meniscectomy for symptomatic patients with a meniscal tear and knee osteoarthritis results in better functional outcomes than nonoperative therapy is uncertain. Methods We conducted a multicenter, randomized, controlled trial involving symptomatic patients 45 years of age or older with a meniscal tear and evidence of mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis on imaging. We randomly assigned 351 patients to surgery and postoperative physical therapy or to a standardized physical-therapy regimen (with the option to cross over to surgery at the discretion of the patient and surgeon). The patients were evaluated at 6 and 12 months. The primary outcome was the difference between the groups with respect to the change in the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) physical-function score (ranging from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more severe symptoms) 6 months after randomization. Results In the intention-to-treat analysis, the mean improvement in the WOMAC score after 6 months was 20.9 points (95% confidence interval [CI], 17.9 to 23.9) in the surgical group and 18.5 (95% CI, 15.6 to 21.5) in the physical-therapy group (mean difference, 2.4 points; 95% CI, -1.8 to 6.5). At 6 months, 51 active participants in the study who were assigned to physical therapy alone (30%) had undergone surgery, and 9 patients assigned to surgery (6%) had not undergone surgery. The results at 12 months were similar to those at 6 months. The frequency of adverse events did not differ significantly between the groups. Conclusions In the intention-to-treat analysis, we did not find significant differences between the study groups in functional improvement 6 months after randomization; however, 30% of the patients who were assigned to physical therapy alone underwent surgery within 6 months. (Funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; METEOR ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00597012 .).
There has been extensive outsourcing of hospital cleaning services in the NHS in England, in part because of the potential to reduce costs. Yet some argue that this leads to lower hygiene standards and more infections, such as MRSA and, perhaps because of this, the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish health services have rejected outsourcing. This study evaluates whether contracting out cleaning services in English acute hospital Trusts (legal authorities that run one or more hospitals) is associated with risks of hospital-borne MRSA infection and lower economic costs. By linking data on MRSA incidence per 100,000 hospital bed-days with surveys of cleanliness among patient and staff in 126 English acute hospital Trusts during 2010-2014, we find that outsourcing cleaning services was associated with greater incidence of MRSA, fewer cleaning staff per hospital bed, worse patient perceptions of cleanliness and staff perceptions of availability of handwashing facilities. However, outsourcing was also associated with lower economic costs (without accounting for additional costs associated with treatment of hospital acquired infections).
Do patients' reports of their health care experiences reflect the quality of care? Despite the increasing role of such measures in research and policy, there’s no consensus regarding their legitimacy in quality assessment. Indeed, as physician and hospital compensation becomes increasingly tied to patient feedback, health care providers and academics are raising strong objections to the use of patient-experience surveys. These views are fueled by studies indicating that patient-experience measures at best have no relation to the quality of delivered care and at worst are associated with poorer patient outcomes. Conversely, other studies have found that better patient experiences - . . .
Background The prevalence of pulmonary embolism among patients hospitalized for syncope is not well documented, and current guidelines pay little attention to a diagnostic workup for pulmonary embolism in these patients. Methods We performed a systematic workup for pulmonary embolism in patients admitted to 11 hospitals in Italy for a first episode of syncope, regardless of whether there were alternative explanations for the syncope. The diagnosis of pulmonary embolism was ruled out in patients who had a low pretest clinical probability, which was defined according to the Wells score, in combination with a negative d-dimer assay. In all other patients, computed tomographic pulmonary angiography or ventilation-perfusion lung scanning was performed. Results A total of 560 patients (mean age, 76 years) were included in the study. A diagnosis of pulmonary embolism was ruled out in 330 of the 560 patients (58.9%) on the basis of the combination of a low pretest clinical probability of pulmonary embolism and negative d-dimer assay. Among the remaining 230 patients, pulmonary embolism was identified in 97 (42.2%). In the entire cohort, the prevalence of pulmonary embolism was 17.3% (95% confidence interval, 14.2 to 20.5). Evidence of an embolus in a main pulmonary or lobar artery or evidence of perfusion defects larger than 25% of the total area of both lungs was found in 61 patients. Pulmonary embolism was identified in 45 of the 355 patients (12.7%) who had an alternative explanation for syncope and in 52 of the 205 patients (25.4%) who did not. Conclusions Pulmonary embolism was identified in nearly one of every six patients hospitalized for a first episode of syncope. (Funded by the University of Padua; PESIT ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01797289 .).
Surgical training has always been hard on residents. During my own residency more than 20 years ago, 100-hour workweeks and in-house call every other night were routine. A resident’s life outside the hospital was simply not a priority. Residency may be even harder on patients. A large body of research has linked sleep deprivation in resident physicians to poor performance in neurobehavioral testing and, more alarmingly, to higher rates of attention failure in patient care.(1),(2) Reacting to concerns about both resident well-being and patient safety, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) implemented duty-hour reforms in 2003 that . . .
Background Thirty-day risk-standardized mortality rates after acute myocardial infarction are commonly used to evaluate and compare hospital performance. However, it is not known whether differences among hospitals in the early survival of patients with acute myocardial infarction are associated with differences in long-term survival. Methods We analyzed data from the Cooperative Cardiovascular Project, a study of Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized for acute myocardial infarction between 1994 and 1996 and who had 17 years of follow-up. We grouped hospitals into five strata that were based on case-mix severity. Within each case-mix stratum, we compared life expectancy among patients admitted to high-performing hospitals with life expectancy among patients admitted to low-performing hospitals. Hospital performance was defined by quintiles of 30-day risk-standardized mortality rates. Cox proportional-hazards models were used to calculate life expectancy. Results The study sample included 119,735 patients with acute myocardial infarction who were admitted to 1824 hospitals. Within each case-mix stratum, survival curves of the patients admitted to hospitals in each risk-standardized mortality rate quintile separated within the first 30 days and then remained parallel over 17 years of follow-up. Estimated life expectancy declined as hospital risk-standardized mortality rate quintile increased. On average, patients treated at high-performing hospitals lived between 0.74 and 1.14 years longer, depending on hospital case mix, than patients treated at low-performing hospitals. When 30-day survivors were examined separately, there was no significant difference in unadjusted or adjusted life expectancy across hospital risk-standardized mortality rate quintiles. Conclusions In this study, patients admitted to high-performing hospitals after acute myocardial infarction had longer life expectancies than patients treated in low-performing hospitals. This survival benefit occurred in the first 30 days and persisted over the long term. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences Medical Scientist Training Program.).
Physicians frequently search PubMed for information to guide patient care. More recently, Google Scholar has gained popularity as another freely accessible bibliographic database.
Background The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, which is included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), applies financial penalties to hospitals that have higher-than-expected readmission rates for targeted conditions. Some policy analysts worry that reductions in readmissions are being achieved by keeping returning patients in observation units instead of formally readmitting them to the hospital. We examined the changes in readmission rates and stays in observation units over time for targeted and nontargeted conditions and assessed whether hospitals that had greater increases in observation-service use had greater reductions in readmissions. Methods We compared monthly, hospital-level rates of readmission and observation-service use within 30 days after hospital discharge among Medicare elderly beneficiaries from October 2007 through May 2015. We used an interrupted time-series model to determine when trends changed and whether changes differed between targeted and nontargeted conditions. We assessed the correlation between changes in readmission rates and use of observation services after adoption of the ACA in March 2010. Results We analyzed data from 3387 hospitals. From 2007 to 2015, readmission rates for targeted conditions declined from 21.5% to 17.8%, and rates for nontargeted conditions declined from 15.3% to 13.1%. Shortly after passage of the ACA, the readmission rate declined quickly, especially for targeted conditions, and then continued to fall at a slower rate after October 2012 for both targeted and nontargeted conditions. Stays in observation units for targeted conditions increased from 2.6% in 2007 to 4.7% in 2015, and rates for nontargeted conditions increased from 2.5% to 4.2%. Within hospitals, there was no significant association between changes in observation-unit stays and readmissions after implementation of the ACA. Conclusions Readmission trends are consistent with hospitals' responding to incentives to reduce readmissions, including the financial penalties for readmissions under the ACA. We did not find evidence that changes in observation-unit stays accounted for the decrease in readmissions.