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1.  Reducing potentially preventable complications at the multi hospital level 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:271.
Background
This study describes the continuation of a program to constrain health care costs by limiting inpatient hospital programs among the hospitals of Syracuse, New York. Through a community demonstration project, it identified components of individual hospital programs for reduction of complications and their impact on the frequency and rates of these outcomes.
Findings
This study involved the implementation of interventions by three hospitals using the Potentially Preventable Complications System developed by 3M™ Health Information Systems. The program is noteworthy because it included competing hospitals in the same community working together to reduce adverse patient outcomes and related costs.
The study data identified statistically significant reductions in the frequency of high and low volume complications during the three year period at two of the hospitals. At both of these hospitals, aggregate complication rates also declined. At these hospitals, the differences between actual complication rates and severity adjusted complication rates were also reduced.
At the third hospital, specific and aggregate complication rates remained the same or increased slightly. Differences between these rates and those of severity adjusted comparison population also remained the same or increased.
Conclusions
Results of the study suggested that, in one community health care system, the progress of reducing complications involved different experiences. At two hospitals with relatively higher rates at the beginning of the study, management by administrative and clinical staff outside quality assurance produced significant reductions in complication rates, while at a hospital with lower rates, management by quality assurance staff had little effect on reducing the rate of PPCs.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-271
PMCID: PMC3160398  PMID: 21801385
2.  Inpatient hospital complications and lengths of stay: a short report 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:135.
Background
Increasingly, efforts are being made to link health care outcomes with more efficient use of resources. The current difficult economic times and health care reform efforts provide incentives for specific efforts in this area.
Findings
This study defined relationships between inpatient complications for urinary tract infection and pneumonia and hospital lengths of stay in three general hospitals in the metropolitan area of Syracuse, New York. It employed the Potentially Preventable Complications (PPC) software developed by 3M™ Health Information Services to identify lengths of stay for patients with and without urinary tract infection and pneumonia. The patient populations included individuals assigned to the same All Patients Refined Diagnosis Related Groups and severity of illness. The comparisons involved two nine month periods in 2008 and 2009.
The study demonstrated that patients who experienced the complications had substantially longer inpatient hospital stays than those who did not. Patients with a PPC of urinary tract infection stayed a mean of 8.9 - 11.9 days or 161 - 216 percent longer than those who did not for the two time periods. This increased stay produced 2,020 - 2,427 additional patient days.
The study demonstrated that patients who experienced the complications had substantially longer inpatient hospital stays than those who did not. Patients with a PPC of pneumonia stayed a mean of 13.0 - 16.3 days or 232 - 281 percent longer than those who did not for the two time periods. This increased stay produced 2,626 - 3,456 additional patient days. Similar differences were generated for median lengths of stay.
Conclusions
The differences in hospital stays for patients in the same APR DRGs and severity of illness with and without urinary tract infection and pneumonia in the Syracuse hospitals were substantial. The additional utilization for these complications was valued at between $2,000,000 - $3,000,000 for a three month period. These differences in the use of hospital resources have important implications for reduction of health care costs among providers and payors of care.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-135
PMCID: PMC3098808  PMID: 21545741
3.  Community wide electronic distribution of summary health care utilization data 
Background
In recent years, the use of digital technology has supported widespread sharing of electronic health care data. Although this approach holds considerable promise, it promises to be a complicated and expensive undertaking. This study described the development and implementation of a community wide system for electronic sharing of summary health care utilization data.
Methods
The development of the community wide data system focused on the following objectives: ongoing monitoring of the health care system, evaluation of community wide individual provider initiatives, identification and development of new initiatives.
The system focused on the sharing of data related to hospital acute care, emergency medical services, long term care, and mental health. It was based on the daily distribution of reports among all health care providers related to these services.
Results
The development of the summary reports concerning health care utilization produced a system wide view of health care in Syracuse, New York on a daily basis. It was not possible to isolate the results of these reports because of the impact of specific projects and other factors. At the same time, the reports were associated with reduction of hospital inpatient stays, improvement of access to hospital emergency departments, reductions in stays for patients discharged to nursing homes, and increased access of mental health patients to hospital inpatient units.
Conclusion
The implementation of the system demonstrated that summary electronic utilization data could provide daily information that would support the improvement of health care outcomes and efficiency. This approach could be implemented in a simple, direct manner with minimal expenses.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-6-17
PMCID: PMC1435745  PMID: 16549023
4.  Maternal Clinical Diagnoses and Hospital Variation in the Risk of Cesarean Delivery: Analyses of a National US Hospital Discharge Database 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001745.
Katy Kozhimannil and colleagues use a national database to examine the extent to which variability in cesarean section rates across the US from 2009–2010 was attributable to individual women's clinical diagnoses.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Cesarean delivery is the most common inpatient surgery in the United States, where 1.3 million cesarean sections occur annually, and rates vary widely by hospital. Identifying sources of variation in cesarean use is crucial to improving the consistency and quality of obstetric care. We used hospital discharge records to examine the extent to which variability in the likelihood of cesarean section across US hospitals was attributable to individual women's clinical diagnoses.
Methods and Findings
Using data from the 2009 and 2010 Nationwide Inpatient Sample from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project—a 20% sample of US hospitals—we analyzed data for 1,475,457 births in 1,373 hospitals. We fitted multilevel logistic regression models (patients nested in hospitals). The outcome was cesarean (versus vaginal) delivery. Covariates included diagnosis of diabetes in pregnancy, hypertension in pregnancy, hemorrhage during pregnancy or placental complications, fetal distress, and fetal disproportion or obstructed labor; maternal age, race/ethnicity, and insurance status; and hospital size and location/teaching status.
The cesarean section prevalence was 22.0% (95% confidence interval 22.0% to 22.1%) among women with no prior cesareans. In unadjusted models, the between-hospital variation in the individual risk of primary cesarean section was 0.14 (95% credible interval 0.12 to 0.15). The difference in the probability of having a cesarean delivery between hospitals was 25 percentage points. Hospital variability did not decrease after adjusting for patient diagnoses, socio-demographics, and hospital characteristics (0.16 [95% credible interval 0.14 to 0.18]). A limitation is that these data, while nationally representative, did not contain information on parity or gestational age.
Conclusions
Variability across hospitals in the individual risk of cesarean section is not decreased by accounting for differences in maternal diagnoses. These findings highlight the need for more comprehensive or linked data including parity and gestational age as well as examination of other factors—such as hospital policies, practices, and culture—in determining cesarean section use.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In an ideal world, all babies would be delivered safely and naturally through their mother's vagina. However, increasing numbers of babies are being delivered by cesarean section, a surgical operation in which the baby is delivered through a cut made in the mother's abdomen and womb. In the US, a third of all babies (about 1.3 million babies in 2011) are delivered this way. A cesarean section is usually performed when a vaginal birth would endanger the life of the mother or her unborn child because, for example, the baby is in the wrong position or the labor is not progressing normally. Some cesarean sections are performed as emergency procedures, but others are planned in advance when the need for the operation becomes clear during pregnancy. Although cesarean sections can save lives, women who deliver this way have higher rates of infection, pain, and complications in future pregnancies than women who deliver vaginally, and their babies can have breathing problems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, cesarean section rates vary widely from country to country and from hospital to hospital within countries. Careful assessment of the risks and benefits of cesarean delivery in individual patients can help to ensure that cesarean sections are used only when necessary, but changes to clinical and policy guidelines are also needed to ensure that cesarean delivery is neither overused nor underused. To guide these changes, we need to know whether cesarean section rates vary among hospitals because of case-mix differences (some hospitals may have high rates because they admit many women with complicated pregnancies, for example) or because of differences in modifiable nonclinical factors such as hospital policies and practices. In this retrospective multilevel analysis, the researchers examine whether the current wide variation in cesarean section rates across US hospitals is attributable to differences in maternal clinical diagnoses and patient characteristics or to hospital-level differences in the use of cesarean delivery.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their study, the researchers used hospital discharge data on nearly 1.5 million births in 1,373 hospitals collected by the 2009 and 2010 US Nationwide Inpatient Sample database, which captures administrative data (for example, length of stay in hospital and clinical complications) from a representative sample of 20% of US hospitals. To assess the chances of cesarean delivery based on hospital and patient characteristics, researchers fitted these data to multilevel logistic regression statistical models. Among women with no prior cesarean deliveries, the (primary) cesarean section rate was 22%, whereas among the whole study population, it was 33% (women who have one cesarean delivery often have a cesarean section for subsequent deliveries). In unadjusted models that compared cesarean section rates between hospitals without considering patient characteristics, the between-hospital variance for primary cesarean section rate was 0.14. Put another way, the likelihood of an individual having a first cesarean delivery varied between 11% and 36% across the hospitals considered. After adjustment for maternal clinical diagnoses, maternal age and other socio-demographic factors, and hospital characteristics such as size, the between-hospital variance for the primary cesarean section rate was 0.16.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding that the between-hospital variance for primary cesarean section rate did not decrease after adjusting for maternal characteristics (and other findings presented by the researchers) suggests that differences in case mix or pregnancy complexity may not drive the wide variability in cesarean section rates across US hospitals. However, the lack of information in the US Nationwide Inpatient Sample database on parity (the number of babies a woman has had) or gestational age (the length of time the baby has spent developing inside its mother) limits the strength of this conclusion. Both parity and gestational age strongly predict a woman's risk of a cesarean delivery. Thus, unmeasured differences in the parity of women admitted to different hospitals and/or the gestational age of their babies may be driving some of the variability in cesarean section rates across US hospitals. The lack of hospital-level information on obstetric care policies in the database also means that the many possible administrative explanations for variations across hospitals cannot be assessed. These findings therefore highlight the need for more comprehensive patient data to be collected (including information on parity and gestational age) and on hospital policies, practices, and culture before the variation in cesarean section rate across US hospitals can be fully understood and the use of cesarean delivery can be optimized.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001745.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Gordon C. S. Smith
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides a fact sheet for patients on cesarean birth
The American College of Nurse-Midwives provides a fact sheet for pregnant women on preventing cesarean birth
The US-based Childbirth Connection Project of the non-profit National Partnership for Women and Families has a booklet called “What Every Woman Should Know about Cesarean Section”
The US-based non-profit Nemours Foundation provides detailed information about cesarean sections (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients about delivery by cesarean section
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about cesarean section (in English and Spanish)
The UK non-profit organization Healthtalkonline provides personal stories about women's experiences of cesarean delivery
Information about the US Nationwide Inpatient Sample database is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001745
PMCID: PMC4205118  PMID: 25333943
5.  Event Rates, Hospital Utilization, and Costs Associated with Major Complications of Diabetes: A Multicountry Comparative Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000236.
Philip Clarke and colleagues examined patient-level data for over 11,000 participants with type 2 diabetes from 20 countries and find that major complications of diabetes significantly increased hospital use and costs across settings.
Background
Diabetes imposes a substantial burden globally in terms of premature mortality, morbidity, and health care costs. Estimates of economic outcomes associated with diabetes are essential inputs to policy analyses aimed at prevention and treatment of diabetes. Our objective was to estimate and compare event rates, hospital utilization, and costs associated with major diabetes-related complications in high-, middle-, and low-income countries.
Methods and Findings
Incidence and history of diabetes-related complications, hospital admissions, and length of stay were recorded in 11,140 patients with type 2 diabetes participating in the Action in Diabetes and Vascular Disease (ADVANCE) study (mean age at entry 66 y). The probability of hospital utilization and number of days in hospital for major events associated with coronary disease, cerebrovascular disease, congestive heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, and nephropathy were estimated for three regions (Asia, Eastern Europe, and Established Market Economies) using multiple regression analysis. The resulting estimates of days spent in hospital were multiplied by regional estimates of the costs per hospital bed-day from the World Health Organization to compute annual acute and long-term costs associated with the different types of complications. To assist, comparability, costs are reported in international dollars (Int$), which represent a hypothetical currency that allows for the same quantities of goods or services to be purchased regardless of country, standardized on purchasing power in the United States. A cost calculator accompanying this paper enables the estimation of costs for individual countries and translation of these costs into local currency units. The probability of attending a hospital following an event was highest for heart failure (93%–96% across regions) and lowest for nephropathy (15%–26%). The average numbers of days in hospital given at least one admission were greatest for stroke (17–32 d across region) and heart failure (16–31 d) and lowest for nephropathy (12–23 d). Considering regional differences, probabilities of hospitalization were lowest in Asia and highest in Established Market Economies; on the other hand, lengths of stay were highest in Asia and lowest in Established Market Economies. Overall estimated annual hospital costs for patients with none of the specified events or event histories ranged from Int$76 in Asia to Int$296 in Established Market Economies. All complications included in this analysis led to significant increases in hospital costs; coronary events, cerebrovascular events, and heart failure were the most costly, at more than Int$1,800, Int$3,000, and Int$4,000 in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Established Market Economies, respectively.
Conclusions
Major complications of diabetes significantly increase hospital use and costs across various settings and are likely to impose a high economic burden on health care systems.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Worldwide, nearly 250 million people have diabetes, and this number is increasing rapidly. Diabetes is characterized by dangerous amounts of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Blood sugar levels are normally controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Blood sugar control fails in people with diabetes because they make no insulin (type 1 diabetes) or, more commonly, because the fat and muscle cells that usually respond to insulin by removing excess sugar from the blood have become insulin insensitive (type 2 diabetes). Type 2 diabetes can be prevented and controlled by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. It can also be treated with drugs that help the pancreas make more insulin or that increase insulin sensitivity. Major long-term complications of diabetes include kidney failure and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, and problems with the blood vessels in the arms and legs. Because of these complications, the life expectancy of people with diabetes is about ten years shorter than that of people without diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Diabetes imposes considerable demands on health care systems but little is known about the direct medical costs associated with treating this chronic disease in low- and middle-income countries where more than three-quarters of affected people live. In particular, although estimates have been made of the overall resources devoted to the treatment of diabetes, very little is known about how the different long-term complications of diabetes contribute to health care costs in different countries. Public-health experts and governments need this information to help them design effective and sustainable policies for the prevention and treatment of diabetes. In this study, the researchers estimate the resource use associated with diabetes-related complications in three economic regions using information collected in the Action in Diabetes and Vascular Disease (ADVANCE) study. This multinational clinical trial is investigating how drugs that control blood pressure and blood sugar levels affect the long-term complications of diabetes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recorded diabetes-related complications, hospital admissions for these complications, and length of hospital stays in 11,140 patients with severe diabetes from 20 countries who participated in the ADVANCE study. They used “multiple regression analysis” to estimate the number of days spent in hospital for diabetes-related complications in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Established Market Economies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and several Western European countries). Finally, they calculated the economic costs of each complication using regional estimates of the costs per bed-day from the World Health Organization's CHOICE project (CHOosing Interventions that are Cost Effective). Nearly everyone in the study who developed heart failure attended a hospital, but only 15%–26% of people attended a hospital for kidney problems. The chances of hospitalization for any complication were lowest in Asia and highest in the Established Market Economies; conversely, lengths of stay were longest in Asia and shortest in the Established Market Economies. Finally, the estimated annual hospital costs for patients who had a coronary event, stroke, or heart failure were more than Int$1,800, Int$3,000, and Int$4,000 in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Established Market Economies, respectively (the international dollar, Int$, is a hypothetical currency that has the same purchasing power in all countries), compared to Int$76, Int$156, and Int$296 for patients who experienced none of these events.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Because the ADVANCE trial had strict entry criteria, the findings of this study may not be generalizable to the broader population of people with diabetes. Nevertheless, given the lack of information about the costs associated with diabetes-related complications in low- and middle-income countries, these findings provide important new information about the patterns of hospital resource use and costs in these countries. Specifically, these findings show that the major complications of diabetes greatly increase hospital use and costs in all three economic regions considered and impose a high economic burden on health care systems that is likely to increase as the diabetes epidemic develops. Importantly, these findings should help policy makers anticipate the future health care costs associated with diabetes and should help them evaluate which therapies aimed at preventing diabetes-related complications will reduce these costs most effectively.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000236.
The International Diabetes Federation provides information about all aspects of diabetes
The US National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse provides detailed information about diabetes for patients, health care professionals, and the general public (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service also provides information for patients and caregivers about type 2 diabetes (in several languages)
Information about the ADVANCE study is available
The World Health Organization's CHOICE Web site provides information about the analysis of the cost effectiveness of health care interventions
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000236
PMCID: PMC2826379  PMID: 20186272
6.  Cardiac Complications in Patients with Community-Acquired Pneumonia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(6):e1001048.
Vicente Corrales-Medina and colleagues report estimates of the risk of cardiac complications among patients with community-acquired pneumonia from a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Background
Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. CAP can trigger acute cardiac events. We sought to determine the incidence of major cardiac complications in CAP patients to characterize the magnitude of this problem.
Methods and Findings
Two investigators searched MEDLINE, Scopus, and EMBASE for observational studies of immunocompetent adults with clinical and radiological evidence of CAP that reported any of the following: overall cardiac complications, incident heart failure, acute coronary syndromes (ACS), or incident cardiac arrhythmias occurring within 30 days of CAP diagnosis. At a minimum, studies had to establish enrolment procedures and inclusion and exclusion criteria, enrol their patients sequentially, and report the incidence of cardiac complications as a function of their entire cohorts. Studies with focus on nosocomial or health care–associated pneumonia were not included. Review of 2,176 citations yielded 25 articles that met eligibility and minimum quality criteria. Seventeen articles (68%) reported cohorts of CAP inpatients. In this group, the pooled incidence rates for overall cardiac complications (six cohorts, 2,119 patients), incident heart failure (eights cohorts, 4,215 patients), acute coronary syndromes (six cohorts, 2,657 patients), and incident cardiac arrhythmias (six cohorts, 2,596 patients), were 17.7% (confidence interval [CI] 13.9–22.2), 14.1% (9.3–20.6), 5.3% (3.2–8.6), and 4.7% (2.4–8.9), respectively. One article reported cardiac complications in CAP outpatients, four in low-risk (not severely ill) inpatients, and three in high-risk inpatients. The incidences for all outcomes except overall cardiac complications were lower in the two former groups and higher in the latter. One additional study reported on CAP outpatients and low-risk inpatients without discriminating between these groups. Twelve studies (48%) asserted the evaluation of cardiac complications in their methods but only six (24%) provided a definition for them. Only three studies, all examining ACS, carried out risk factor analysis for these events. No study analyzed the association between cardiac complications and other medical complications or their impact on other CAP outcomes.
Conclusions
Major cardiac complications occur in a substantial proportion of patients with CAP. Physicians and patients need to appreciate the significance of this association for timely recognition and management of these events. Strategies aimed at preventing pneumonia (i.e., influenza and pneumococcal vaccination) in high-risk populations need to be optimized. Further research is needed to understand the mechanisms underlying this association, measure the impact of cardiac complications on other CAP outcomes, identify those patients with CAP at high risk of developing cardiac complications, and design strategies to prevent their occurrence in this population.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), that is, pneumonia infections contracted outside of hospital or health care settings, is a common condition and can be fatal, particularly to older people. For example, every year, an estimated 5–6 million people contract this form of pneumonia in the US, leading to 1.1 million people being admitted to hospitals and causing 60,000 deaths—the most frequent cause of infectious disease-related mortality. In the US for example, more than half of older patients who present to the hospital with CAP have preexisting chronic cardiac conditions—an important fact given that acute infections, such as CAP, can affect the cardiovascular system in various ways and precipitate acute cardiac events, such as heart failure, heart attacks, and cardiac arrhythmias.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although it is bio-medically plausible that a considerable proportion of patients with CAP have cardiac complications, systematic data on the scale of this potential problem are lacking—a concerning omission given the important implications for health policy-making and direct patient care. Therefore, in this study, the researchers conducted a systematic review to examine the published literature on cardiac complications in patients with CAP in order to characterize the nature and significance of this association, and to identify areas that require further research and investigation.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched MEDLINE, Scopus, and EMBASE for all relevant articles published in English, French, or Spanish languages until June 2010. The researchers used strict criteria to select appropriate articles (such as radiographic evidence of CAP) and only selected studies that had outcomes of the incidence of cardiac complications, such as incident (new or worsening) heart failure, acute coronary syndromes (acute myocardial infarction or unstable angina), and incident cardiac arrhythmias within 30 days of diagnosis of CAP.
Using these methods, the researchers identified 2,176 articles for review and selected 25 eligible papers for their analysis. Seventeen articles (68%) reported cohorts of CAP inpatients. In this group, the pooled incidence rates of overall cardiac complications (six cohorts, 2,119 patients), incident heart failure (eight cohorts, 4,215 patients), acute coronary syndromes (six cohorts, 2,657 patients), and incident cardiac arrhythmias (six cohorts, 2,596 patients), were 17.7%, 14.1%, 5.3%, and 4.7% respectively. Only three studies, (all of acute coronary syndromes) did risk factor analysis for these events. Possible risk factors identified included older age, preexisting congestive heart failure, severity of pneumonia, and the use of insulin by glucose sliding scales in hospitalized patients. No study analyzed the association between cardiac complications and other medical complications (such as acute renal failure, respiratory failure, shock, etc.) or their impact on other outcomes, such as death, in patients with CAP.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although limited to a mostly descriptive analysis, these findings clearly show that major cardiac complications occur in a significant proportion of patients with CAP, especially in those admitted to hospital. These findings have important clinical and public health implications. Clinicians should be more aware of the significance of the association between CAP and cardiac complications to better inform, treat, and manage patients. Physicians and health officials need to increase efforts to optimize the rates of influenza and pneumococcal vaccination among older people and those with chronic cardiac conditions to reduce the incidence of CAP in these high-risk populations. There needs to be more consideration given to the potential impact of cardiac complications on mortality and costs associated with CAP. Finally, these findings highlight the need for prospective, well-designed, and adequately powered studies of cardiac complications in patients with CAP. More research attention should be given to this important area in order to improve the outcomes for patients with CAP and to decrease the consequent burden on health care systems through recognition of risk, prevention, and intervention on acute cardiac complications.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001048.
Information can be found on Wikipedia on community-acquired pneumonia (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control provide patient information on community-acquired pneumonia
The American Heart Association provides information on heart failure, acute coronary syndromes, and arrhythmias
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001048
PMCID: PMC3125176  PMID: 21738449
7.  A Multifaceted Intervention to Improve the Quality of Care of Children in District Hospitals in Kenya: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001238.
A cost-effective analysis conducted by Edwine Barasa and colleagues estimates that a complex intervention aimed at improving quality of pediatric care would be affordable and cost-effective in Kenya.
Background
To improve care for children in district hospitals in Kenya, a multifaceted approach employing guidelines, training, supervision, feedback, and facilitation was developed, for brevity called the Emergency Triage and Treatment Plus (ETAT+) strategy. We assessed the cost effectiveness of the ETAT+ strategy, in Kenyan hospitals. Further, we estimate the costs of scaling up the intervention to Kenya nationally and potential cost effectiveness at scale.
Methods and Findings
Our cost-effectiveness analysis from the provider's perspective used data from a previously reported cluster randomized trial comparing the full ETAT+ strategy (n = 4 hospitals) with a partial intervention (n = 4 hospitals). Effectiveness was measured using 14 process measures that capture improvements in quality of care; their average was used as a summary measure of quality. Economic costs of the development and implementation of the intervention were determined (2009 US$). Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were defined as the incremental cost per percentage improvement in (average) quality of care. Probabilistic sensitivity analysis was used to assess uncertainty. The cost per child admission was US$50.74 (95% CI 49.26–67.06) in intervention hospitals compared to US$31.1 (95% CI 30.67–47.18) in control hospitals. Each percentage improvement in average quality of care cost an additional US$0.79 (95% CI 0.19–2.31) per admitted child. The estimated annual cost of nationally scaling up the full intervention was US$3.6 million, approximately 0.6% of the annual child health budget in Kenya. A “what-if” analysis assuming conservative reductions in mortality suggests the incremental cost per disability adjusted life year (DALY) averted by scaling up would vary between US$39.8 and US$398.3.
Conclusion
Improving quality of care at scale nationally with the full ETAT+ strategy may be affordable for low income countries such as Kenya. Resultant plausible reductions in hospital mortality suggest the intervention could be cost-effective when compared to incremental cost-effectiveness ratios of other priority child health interventions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
According to latest global estimates from UNICEF, 7.6 million children currently die every year before they reach five years of age. Half of these deaths occur in children in sub-Saharan Africa and tragically, most of these deaths are due to a few treatable and preventable diseases, such as pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea, for which effective interventions are already available. In order to meet the target of the 4th Millennium Development Goal—which aims to reduce the under-five child mortality rate by two-thirds from 1990 levels by 2015—delivering these interventions is essential.
In Kenya, the under-five child mortality rate must be reduced by half from its 2008 level in order to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target and so improving the management of serious child illness might help achieve this goal. A study published last year in PLoS Medicine described such an approach and included the development and implementation of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines linked to health worker training, follow-up supervision, performance feedback, and facilitation in eight district hospitals in Kenya.
Why Was This Study Done?
In the study mentioned above, the researchers compared the implementation of various processes of care in intervention and control hospitals at baseline and 18 months later and found that performance improved more in the intervention hospitals than in the control hospitals. However, while this strategy was effective at improving the quality of health care, it is unclear whether scaling up the approach would be a good use of limited resources. So in this study, the same researchers performed a cost-effectiveness analysis (which they conducted alongside the original trial) of their quality improvement intervention and estimated the costs and effects of scaling up this approach to cover the entire population of Kenya.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to perform the cost part of the analysis, the researchers collected the relevant information on costs by using clinical and accounting record reviews and interviews with those involved in developing and implementing the intervention. The researchers evaluated the effectiveness part of the analysis by comparing the implementation of their improved quality of care strategy as delivered in the intervention hospitals with the partial intervention as delivered in the control hospitals by calculating the mean percentage improvement in the 14 process of care indicators at 18 months. Finally, the researchers calculated the costs of scaling up the intervention by applying their results to the whole of Kenya—121 hospital facilities with an estimated annual child admission rate of 2,000 per facility.
The researchers found that the quality of care (as measured by the process of care indicators) was 25% higher in intervention hospitals than in control hospitals, while the cost per child admission was US$50.74 in intervention hospitals compared to US$31.1 in control hospitals. The researchers calculated that each percentage improvement in the average quality of care was achieved at an additional cost of US$0.79 per admitted child. Extrapolating these results to all of Kenya, the estimated annual cost of scaling up the intervention nationally was US$3.6 million, about 0.6% of the annual child health budget in Kenya.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this cost-effectiveness analysis suggests that a comprehensive quality improvement intervention is effective at improving standards of care but at an additional cost, which may be relatively cost effective compared with basic care if the improvements observed are associated with decreases in child inpatient mortality. The absolute costs for scaling up are comparable to, or even lower than, costs of other, major child health interventions. As the international community is giving an increasing focus to strengthening health systems, these findings provide a strong case for scaling up this intervention, which improves quality of care and service provision for the major causes of child mortality, in rural hospitals throughout Kenya and other district hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001238.
The researchers' original article appeared in PLoS Medicine in 2011: Ayieko P, Ntoburi S, Wagai J, Opondo C, Opiyo N, et al. (2011) A Multifaceted Intervention to Implement Guidelines and Improve Admission Paediatric Care in Kenyan District Hospitals: A Cluster Randomised Trial. PLoS Med 8(4): e1001018. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001018
The IDOC Africa provides further information on the ETAT+ strategy
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information on MDG 4, including strategies to reduce global child mortality) and the WHO pocket-book “Hospital care for children” includes guidelines for the management of common but serious childhood illnesses in resource-limited settings
UNICEF www.unicef.org also publishes information on global child mortality rates and the Countdown to 2015 website tracks coverage levels for health interventions proven to reduce child mortality
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001238
PMCID: PMC3373608  PMID: 22719233
8.  Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.hqontario.ca/en/mas/mas_ohtas_mn.html.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/ceb/faculty_member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website: http://www.path-hta.ca/About-Us/Contact-Us.aspx.
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website: http://theta.utoronto.ca/static/contact.
Objective
The objective of this analysis was to compare hospital-at-home care with inpatient hospital care for patients with acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who present to the emergency department (ED).
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a disease state characterized by airflow limitation that is not fully reversible. This airflow limitation is usually both progressive and associated with an abnormal inflammatory response of the lungs to noxious particles or gases. The natural history of COPD involves periods of acute-onset worsening of symptoms, particularly increased breathlessness, cough, and/or sputum, that go beyond normal day-to-day variations; these are known as acute exacerbations.
Two-thirds of COPD exacerbations are caused by an infection of the tracheobronchial tree or by air pollution; the cause in the remaining cases is unknown. On average, patients with moderate to severe COPD experience 2 or 3 exacerbations each year.
Exacerbations have an important impact on patients and on the health care system. For the patient, exacerbations result in decreased quality of life, potentially permanent losses of lung function, and an increased risk of mortality. For the health care system, exacerbations of COPD are a leading cause of ED visits and hospitalizations, particularly in winter.
Technology
Hospital-at-home programs offer an alternative for patients who present to the ED with an exacerbation of COPD and require hospital admission for their treatment. Hospital-at-home programs provide patients with visits in their home by medical professionals (typically specialist nurses) who monitor the patients, alter patients’ treatment plans if needed, and in some programs, provide additional care such as pulmonary rehabilitation, patient and caregiver education, and smoking cessation counselling.
There are 2 types of hospital-at-home programs: admission avoidance and early discharge hospital-at-home. In the former, admission avoidance hospital-at-home, after patients are assessed in the ED, they are prescribed the necessary medications and additional care needed (e.g., oxygen therapy) and then sent home where they receive regular visits from a medical professional. In early discharge hospital-at-home, after being assessed in the ED, patients are admitted to the hospital where they receive the initial phase of their treatment. These patients are discharged into a hospital-at-home program before the exacerbation has resolved. In both cases, once the exacerbation has resolved, the patient is discharged from the hospital-at-home program and no longer receives visits in his/her home.
In the models that exist to date, hospital-at-home programs differ from other home care programs because they deal with higher acuity patients who require higher acuity care, and because hospitals retain the medical and legal responsibility for patients. Furthermore, patients requiring home care services may require such services for long periods of time or indefinitely, whereas patients in hospital-at-home programs require and receive the services for a short period of time only.
Hospital-at-home care is not appropriate for all patients with acute exacerbations of COPD. Ineligible patients include: those with mild exacerbations that can be managed without admission to hospital; those who require admission to hospital; and those who cannot be safely treated in a hospital-at-home program either for medical reasons and/or because of a lack of, or poor, social support at home.
The proposed possible benefits of hospital-at-home for treatment of exacerbations of COPD include: decreased utilization of health care resources by avoiding hospital admission and/or reducing length of stay in hospital; decreased costs; increased health-related quality of life for patients and caregivers when treated at home; and reduced risk of hospital-acquired infections in this susceptible patient population.
Ontario Context
No hospital-at-home programs for the treatment of acute exacerbations of COPD were identified in Ontario. Patients requiring acute care for their exacerbations are treated in hospitals.
Research Question
What is the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and safety of hospital-at-home care compared with inpatient hospital care of acute exacerbations of COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on August 5, 2010, using OVID MEDLINE, OVID MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, OVID EMBASE, EBSCO Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Wiley Cochrane Library, and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination database for studies published from January 1, 1990, to August 5, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists and health technology assessment websites were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the systematic search.
Inclusion Criteria
English language full-text reports;
health technology assessments, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and randomized controlled trials (RCTs);
studies performed exclusively in patients with a diagnosis of COPD or studies including patients with COPD as well as patients with other conditions, if results are reported for COPD patients separately;
studies performed in patients with acute exacerbations of COPD who present to the ED;
studies published between January 1, 1990, and August 5, 2010;
studies comparing hospital-at-home and inpatient hospital care for patients with acute exacerbations of COPD;
studies that include at least 1 of the outcomes of interest (listed below).
Cochrane Collaboration reviews have defined hospital-at-home programs as those that provide patients with active treatment for their acute exacerbation in their home by medical professionals for a limited period of time (in this case, until the resolution of the exacerbation). If a hospital-at-home program had not been available, these patients would have been admitted to hospital for their treatment.
Exclusion Criteria
< 18 years of age
animal studies
duplicate publications
grey literature
Outcomes of Interest
Patient/clinical outcomes
mortality
lung function (forced expiratory volume in 1 second)
health-related quality of life
patient or caregiver preference
patient or caregiver satisfaction with care
complications
Health system outcomes
hospital readmissions
length of stay in hospital and hospital-at-home
ED visits
transfer to long-term care
days to readmission
eligibility for hospital-at-home
Statistical Methods
When possible, results were pooled using Review Manager 5 Version 5.1; otherwise, results were summarized descriptively. Data from RCTs were analyzed using intention-to-treat protocols. In addition, a sensitivity analysis was done assigning all missing data/withdrawals to the event. P values less than 0.05 were considered significant. A priori subgroup analyses were planned for the acuity of hospital-at-home program, type of hospital-at-home program (early discharge or admission avoidance), and severity of the patients’ COPD. Additional subgroup analyses were conducted as needed based on the identified literature. Post hoc sample size calculations were performed using STATA 10.1.
Quality of Evidence
The quality of each included study was assessed, taking into consideration allocation concealment, randomization, blinding, power/sample size, withdrawals/dropouts, and intention-to-treat analyses.
The quality of the body of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria. The following definitions of quality were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
Summary of Findings
Fourteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this review: 1 health technology assessment, 5 systematic reviews, and 7 RCTs.
The following conclusions are based on low to very low quality of evidence. The reviewed evidence was based on RCTs that were inadequately powered to observe differences between hospital-at-home and inpatient hospital care for most outcomes, so there is a strong possibility of type II error. Given the low to very low quality of evidence, these conclusions must be considered with caution.
Approximately 21% to 37% of patients with acute exacerbations of COPD who present to the ED may be eligible for hospital-at-home care.
Of the patients who are eligible for care, some may refuse to participate in hospital-at-home care.
Eligibility for hospital-at-home care may be increased depending on the design of the hospital-at-home program, such as the size of the geographical service area for hospital-at-home and the hours of operation for patient assessment and entry into hospital-at-home.
Hospital-at-home care for acute exacerbations of COPD was associated with a nonsignificant reduction in the risk of mortality and hospital readmissions compared with inpatient hospital care during 2- to 6-month follow-up.
Limited, very low quality evidence suggests that hospital readmissions are delayed in patients who received hospital-at-home care compared with those who received inpatient hospital care (mean additional days before readmission comparing hospital-at-home to inpatient hospital care ranged from 4 to 38 days).
There is insufficient evidence to determine whether hospital-at-home care, compared with inpatient hospital care, is associated with improved lung function.
The majority of studies did not find significant differences between hospital-at-home and inpatient hospital care for a variety of health-related quality of life measures at follow-up. However, follow-up may have been too late to observe an impact of hospital-at-home care on quality of life.
A conclusion about the impact of hospital-at-home care on length of stay for the initial exacerbation (defined as days in hospital or days in hospital plus hospital-at-home care for inpatient hospital and hospital-at-home, respectively) could not be determined because of limited and inconsistent evidence.
Patient and caregiver satisfaction with care is high for both hospital-at-home and inpatient hospital care.
PMCID: PMC3384361  PMID: 23074420
9.  Alternative Strategies to Reduce Maternal Mortality in India: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000264.
A cost-effectiveness study by Sue Goldie and colleagues finds that better family planning, provision of safe abortion, and improved intrapartum and emergency obstetrical care could reduce maternal mortality in India by 75% in 5 years.
Background
Approximately one-quarter of all pregnancy- and delivery-related maternal deaths worldwide occur in India. Taking into account the costs, feasibility, and operational complexity of alternative interventions, we estimate the clinical and population-level benefits associated with strategies to improve the safety of pregnancy and childbirth in India.
Methods and Findings
Country- and region-specific data were synthesized using a computer-based model that simulates the natural history of pregnancy (both planned and unintended) and pregnancy- and childbirth-associated complications in individual women; and considers delivery location, attendant, and facility level. Model outcomes included clinical events, population measures, costs, and cost-effectiveness ratios. Separate models were adapted to urban and rural India using survey-based data (e.g., unmet need for birth spacing/limiting, facility births, skilled birth attendants). Model validation compared projected maternal indicators with empiric data. Strategies consisted of improving coverage of effective interventions that could be provided individually or packaged as integrated services, could reduce the incidence of a complication or its case fatality rate, and could include improved logistics such as reliable transport to an appropriate referral facility as well as recognition of referral need and quality of care. Increasing family planning was the most effective individual intervention to reduce pregnancy-related mortality. If over the next 5 y the unmet need for spacing and limiting births was met, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be prevented; more than US$1 billion saved; and at least one of every two abortion-related deaths averted. Still, reductions in maternal mortality reached a threshold (∼23%–35%) without including strategies that ensured reliable access to intrapartum and emergency obstetrical care (EmOC). An integrated and stepwise approach was identified that would ultimately prevent four of five maternal deaths; this approach coupled stepwise improvements in family planning and safe abortion with consecutively implemented strategies that incrementally increased skilled attendants, improved antenatal/postpartum care, shifted births away from home, and improved recognition of referral need, transport, and availability/quality of EmOC. The strategies in this approach ranged from being cost-saving to having incremental cost-effectiveness ratios less than US$500 per year of life saved (YLS), well below India's per capita gross domestic product (GDP), a common benchmark for cost-effectiveness.
Conclusions
Early intensive efforts to improve family planning and control of fertility choices and to provide safe abortion, accompanied by a paced systematic and stepwise effort to scale up capacity for integrated maternal health services over several years, is as cost-effective as childhood immunization or treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, or HIV. In just 5 y, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be averted through increasing contraception rates to meet women's needs for spacing and limiting births; nearly US$1.5 billion would be saved by coupling safe abortion to aggressive family planning efforts; and with stepwise investments to improve access to pregnancy-related health services and to high-quality facility-based intrapartum care, more than 75% of maternal deaths could be prevented. If accomplished over the next decade, the lives of more than one million women would be saved.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than half a million women—most of them living in developing countries—die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. About a quarter of these “maternal” deaths occur in India. In 2005, a woman's lifetime risk of maternal death in India was 1 in 70; in the UK, it was only one in 8,200. Similarly, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR; number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) in India was 450, whereas in the UK it was eight. Faced with the enormous maternal death toll in India and other developing countries, in September 2000, the United Nations pledged, as its fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5), that the global MMR would be reduced to a quarter of its 1990 level by 2015. Currently, it seems unlikely that this target will be met. Between 1990 and 2005, global maternal deaths decreased by only 1% per annum instead of the 5% needed to reach MDG 5; in India, the decrease in maternal deaths between 1990 and 2005 was about 1.8% per annum.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most maternal deaths in developing countries are caused by severe bleeding after childbirth, infections soon after delivery, blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, and obstructed (difficult) labors. Consequently, experts agree that universal access to high-quality routine care during labor (“obstetric” care) and to emergency obstetrical care is needed to reduce maternal deaths. However, there is less agreement about how to adapt these “ideal recommendations” to specific situations. In developing countries with weak health systems and predominantly rural populations, it is unlikely that all women will have access to emergency obstetric care in the near future—so would beginning with improved access to family planning and to safe abortions (unsafe abortion is another major cause of maternal death) be a more achievable, more cost-effective way of reducing maternal deaths? How would family planning and safe abortion be coupled efficiently and cost-effectively with improved access to intrapartum care? In this study, the researchers investigate these questions by estimating the health and economic outcomes of various strategies to reduce maternal mortality in India.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a computer-based model that simulates women through pregnancy and childbirth to estimate the effect of different strategies (for example, increased family planning or increased access to obstetric care) on clinical outcomes (pregnancies, live births, or deaths), costs, and cost-effectiveness (the cost of saving one year of life) in India. Increased family planning was the most effective single intervention for the reduction of pregnancy-related mortality. If the current unmet need for family planning in India could be fulfilled over the next 5 years, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be prevented, more than US$1 billion saved, and at least half of abortion-related deaths averted. However, increased family planning alone would reduce maternal deaths by 35% at most, so the researchers also used their model to test the effect of combinations of strategies on maternal death. They found that an integrated and stepwise approach (increased family planning and safe abortion combined with consecutively increased skilled birth attendants, improved care before and after birth, reduced home births, and improved emergency obstetric care) could eventually prevent nearly 80% of maternal deaths. All the steps in this strategy either saved money or involved an additional cost per year of life saved of less than US$500; given one suggested threshold for cost-effectiveness in India of the per capita GDP (US$1,068) per year of life saved, these strategies would be considered very cost-effective.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The accuracy of these findings depends on the assumptions used to build the model and the quality of the data fed into it. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that early intensive efforts to improve family planning and to provide safe abortion accompanied by a systematic, stepwise effort to improve integrated maternal health services could reduce maternal deaths in India by more than 75% in less than a decade. Furthermore, such a strategy would be cost-effective. Indeed, note the researchers, the cost savings from an initial focus on family planning and safe abortion provision would partly offset the resources needed to assure that every woman had access to high quality routine and emergency obstetric care. Thus, overall, these findings suggest that MDG 5 may be within reach in India, a conclusion that should help to mobilize political support for this worthy goal.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000264.
UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank 2005 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization also provides information on maternal health and about MDG 5 (in several languages)
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals Web site provides detailed information about the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs, their targets and their indicators, and about MDG 5.
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 and its progress chart provide an up-to-date assessment of progress toward all the MDGs
Computer simulation modeling as applied to health is further discussed at the Center for Health Decision Science at Harvard University
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000264
PMCID: PMC2857650  PMID: 20421922
10.  Portable Bladder Ultrasound 
Executive Summary
Objective
The aim of this review was to assess the clinical utility of portable bladder ultrasound.
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Data from the National Population Health Survey indicate prevalence rates of urinary incontinence are 2.5% in women and 1.4 % in men in the general population. Prevalence of urinary incontinence is higher in women than men and prevalence increases with age.
Identified risk factors for urinary incontinence include female gender, increasing age, urinary tract infections (UTI), poor mobility, dementia, smoking, obesity, consuming alcohol and caffeine beverages, physical activity, pregnancy, childbirth, forceps and vacuum-assisted births, episiotomy, abdominal resection for colorectal cancer, and hormone replacement therapy.
For the purposes of this review, incontinence populations will be stratified into the following; the elderly, urology patients, postoperative patients, rehabilitation settings, and neurogenic bladder populations.
Urinary incontinence is defined as any involuntary leakage of urine. Incontinence can be classified into diagnostic clinical types that are useful in planning evaluation and treatment. The major types of incontinence are stress (physical exertion), urge (overactive bladder), mixed (combined urge and stress urinary incontinence), reflex (neurological impairment of the central nervous system), overflow (leakage due to full bladder), continuous (urinary tract abnormalities), congenital incontinence, and transient incontinence (temporary incontinence).
Postvoid residual (PVR) urine volume, which is the amount of urine in the bladder immediately after urination, represents an important component in continence assessment and bladder management to provide quantitative feedback to the patient and continence care team regarding the effectiveness of the voiding technique. Although there is no standardized definition of normal PVR urine volume, measurements greater than 100 mL to 150 mL are considered an indication for urinary retention, requiring intermittent catheterization, whereas a PVR urine volume of 100 mL to 150 mL or less is generally considered an acceptable result of bladder training.
Urinary retention has been associated with poor outcomes including UTI, bladder overdistension, and higher hospital mortality rates. The standard method of determining PVR urine volumes is intermittent catheterization, which is associated with increased risk of UTI, urethral trauma and discomfort.
The Technology Being Reviewed
Portable bladder ultrasound products are transportable ultrasound devices that use automated technology to register bladder volume digitally, including PVR volume, and provide three-dimensional images of the bladder. The main clinical use of portable bladder ultrasound is as a diagnostic aid. Health care professionals (primarily nurses) administer the device to measure PVR volume and prevent unnecessary catheterization. An adjunctive use of the bladder ultrasound device is to visualize the placement and removal of catheters. Also, portable bladder ultrasound products may improve the diagnosis and differentiation of urological problems and their management and treatment, including the establishment of voiding schedules, study of bladder biofeedback, fewer UTIs, and monitoring of potential urinary incontinence after surgery or trauma.
Review Strategy
To determine the effectiveness and clinical utility of portable bladder ultrasound as reported in the published literature, the Medical Advisory Secretariat used its standard search strategy to retrieve international health technology assessments and English-language journal articles from selected databases. Nonsystematic reviews, nonhuman studies, case reports, letters, editorials, and comments were excluded.
Summary of Findings
Of the 4 included studies that examined the clinical utility of portable bladder ultrasound in the elderly population, all found the device to be acceptable. One study reported that the device underestimated catheterized bladder volume
In patients with urology problems, 2 of the 3 studies concerning portable bladder ultrasound found the device acceptable to use. However, one study did not find the device as accurate for small PVR volume as for catheterization and another found that the device overestimated catheterized bladder volume. In the remaining study, the authors reported that when the device’s hand-held ultrasound transducers (scanheads) were aimed improperly, bladders were missed, or lateral borders of bladders were missed resulting in partial bladder volume measurements and underestimation of PVR measurements. They concluded that caution should be used in interpreting PVR volume measured by portable bladder ultrasound machines and that catheterization may be the preferred assessment modality if an accurate PVR measurement is necessary.
All 3 studies with post-operative populations found portable bladder ultrasound use to be reasonably acceptable. Two studies reported that the device overestimated catheter-derived bladder volumes, one by 7% and the other by 21 mL. The third study reported the opposite, that the device underestimated catheter bladder volume by 39 mL but that the results remained acceptable
In rehabilitation settings, 2 studies found portable bladder ultrasound to underestimate catheter-derived bladder volumes; yet, both authors concluded that the mean errors were within acceptable limits.
In patients with neurogenic bladder problems, 2 studies found portable bladder ultrasound to be an acceptable alternative to catheterization despite the fact that it was not as accurate as catheterization for obtaining bladder volumes.
Lastly, examinations concerning avoidance of negative health outcomes showed that, after use of the portable bladder ultrasound, unnecessary catheterizations and UTIs were decreased. Unnecessary catheterizations avoided ranged from 16% to 47% in the selected articles. Reductions in UTI ranged from 38% to 72%.
In sum, all but one study advocated the use of portable bladder ultrasound as an alternative to catheterization.
Economic Analysis
An economic analysis estimating the budget-impact of BladderScan in complex continuing care facilities was completed. The analysis results indicated a $192,499 (Cdn) cost-savings per year per facility and a cost-savings of $2,887,485 (Cdn) for all 15 CCC facilities. No economic analysis was completed for long-term care and acute care facilities due to lack of data.
Considerations for Policy Development
Rapid diffusion of portable bladder ultrasound technology is expected. Recently, the IC5 project on improving continence care in Ontario’s complex continuing care centres piloted portable bladder ultrasound at 12 sites. Preliminary results were promising.
Many physicians and health care facilities already have portable bladder ultrasound devices. However, portable bladder ultrasound devices for PVR measurement are not in use at most health care facilities in Ontario and Canada. The Verathon Corporation (Bothell, Wisconsin, United States), which patents BladderScan, is the sole licensed manufacturer of the portable bladder ultrasound in Canada. Field monopoly may influence the rising costs of portable bladder ultrasound, particularly when faced with rapid expansion of the technology.
Several thousand residents of Ontario would benefit from portable bladder ultrasound. The number of residents of Ontario that would benefit from the technology is difficult to quantify, because the incidence and prevalence of incontinence are grossly under-reported. However, long-term care and complex continuing care institutions would benefit greatly from portable bladder ultrasound, as would numerous rehabilitation units, postsurgical care units, and urology clinics.
The cost of the portable bladder ultrasound devices ranges from $17,698.90 to $19,565.95 (Cdn) (total purchase price per unit as quoted by the manufacturer). Additional training packages, batteries and battery chargers, software, gel pads, and yearly warranties are additional costs. Studies indicate that portable bladder ultrasound is a cost-effective technology, because it avoids costs associated with catheterization equipment, saves nursing time, and reduces catheter-related complications and UTIs.
The use of portable bladder ultrasound device will affect the patient directly in terms of health outcomes. Its use avoids the trauma related to the urinary tract that catheterization inflicts, and does not result in UTIs. In addition, patients prefer it, because it preserves dignity and reduces discomfort.
PMCID: PMC3379524  PMID: 23074481
11.  Racial Variation in the Quality of Surgical Care for Prostate Cancer 
The Journal of urology  2012;188(4):1279-1285.
Purpose
Difference in the quality of care may contribute to the less optimal prostate cancer treatment outcomes among Blacks compared with Whites. Our objective was to determine whether a racial quality of care gap exists in surgical care for prostate cancer, as evidenced by racial variation in the utilization of high-volume surgeons and facilities, and in certain outcome measures of care quality.
Materials and Methods
We performed cross-sectional and cohort analyses of administrative data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's all-payer State Inpatient Databases, encompassing all non-Federal hospitals in Florida, Maryland and New York State (1996-2007). Included were men 18 or older with a diagnosis of prostate cancer who underwent radical prostatectomy. We compared use of surgeons and/or hospitals in the top quartile of annual volume for this procedure, inpatient blood transfusion, complications, mortality and length of stay (LOS) between Black and White patients.
Results
Among 105,972 cases, 81,112 (76.5%) were White, 14,006 (13.2%) were Black, 6,999 (6.6%) were Hispanic and 3,855 (3.6%) were All Other. In mixed effects multivariate models, Blacks had markedly lower use of high-volume hospitals (Odds Ratio [OR] = 0.73, 95% Confidence interval [0.70, 0.76]), and surgeons (0.67 [0.64, 0.70]) compared to Whites. Blacks also had a higher odds of receiving a blood transfusion (1.08 [1.01, 1.14]), of longer LOS (1.07 [1.06, 1.07]) and of inpatient mortality (1.73 [1.02, 2.92]).
Conclusions
Using an all-payer dataset, we identified concerning potential quality of care gaps between Blacks and Whites undergoing radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer.
doi:10.1016/j.juro.2012.06.037
PMCID: PMC3770766  PMID: 22902011
Health disparities; quality of care; prostate cancer; surgery
12.  Automated Detection of Infectious Disease Outbreaks in Hospitals: A Retrospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000238.
Susan Huang and colleagues describe an automated statistical software, WHONET-SaTScan, its application in a hospital, and the potential it has to identify hospital infection clusters that had escaped routine detection.
Background
Detection of outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections is often based on simple rules, such as the occurrence of three new cases of a single pathogen in two weeks on the same ward. These rules typically focus on only a few pathogens, and they do not account for the pathogens' underlying prevalence, the normal random variation in rates, and clusters that may occur beyond a single ward, such as those associated with specialty services. Ideally, outbreak detection programs should evaluate many pathogens, using a wide array of data sources.
Methods and Findings
We applied a space-time permutation scan statistic to microbiology data from patients admitted to a 750-bed academic medical center in 2002–2006, using WHONET-SaTScan laboratory information software from the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance. We evaluated patients' first isolates for each potential pathogenic species. In order to evaluate hospital-associated infections, only pathogens first isolated >2 d after admission were included. Clusters were sought daily across the entire hospital, as well as in hospital wards, specialty services, and using similar antimicrobial susceptibility profiles. We assessed clusters that had a likelihood of occurring by chance less than once per year. For methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), WHONET-SaTScan–generated clusters were compared to those previously identified by the Infection Control program, which were based on a rule-based criterion of three occurrences in two weeks in the same ward. Two hospital epidemiologists independently classified each cluster's importance. From 2002 to 2006, WHONET-SaTScan found 59 clusters involving 2–27 patients (median 4). Clusters were identified by antimicrobial resistance profile (41%), wards (29%), service (13%), and hospital-wide assessments (17%). WHONET-SaTScan rapidly detected the two previously known gram-negative pathogen clusters. Compared to rule-based thresholds, WHONET-SaTScan considered only one of 73 previously designated MRSA clusters and 0 of 87 VRE clusters as episodes statistically unlikely to have occurred by chance. WHONET-SaTScan identified six MRSA and four VRE clusters that were previously unknown. Epidemiologists considered more than 95% of the 59 detected clusters to merit consideration, with 27% warranting active investigation or intervention.
Conclusions
Automated statistical software identified hospital clusters that had escaped routine detection. It also classified many previously identified clusters as events likely to occur because of normal random fluctuations. This automated method has the potential to provide valuable real-time guidance both by identifying otherwise unrecognized outbreaks and by preventing the unnecessary implementation of resource-intensive infection control measures that interfere with regular patient care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Admission to a hospital is often a life-saving necessity—individuals injured in a road accident, for example, may need immediate medical and surgical attention if they are to survive. Unfortunately, many patients acquire infections, some of which are life-threatening, during their stay in a hospital. The World Health Organization has estimated that, globally, 8.7% of hospital patients develop hospital-acquired infections (infections that are identified more than two days after admission to hospital). In the US alone, 2 million people develop a hospital-acquired infection every year, often an infection of a surgical wound, or a urinary tract or lung infection. Infections are common among hospital patients because increasing age or underlying illnesses can reduce immunity to infection and because many medical and surgical procedures bypass the body's natural protective barriers. In addition, poor infection control practices can facilitate the transmission of bacteria—including meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE)—and other infectious agents (pathogens) between patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
Sometimes, the number of cases of hospital-acquired infections increases unexpectedly or a new infection emerges. Such clusters account for relatively few health care–associated infections, but, because they may arise from the transmission of a pathogen within a hospital, they need to be rapidly identified and measures implemented (for example, isolation of affected patients) to stop transmission if an outbreak is confirmed. Currently, the detection of clusters of hospital-acquired infections is based on simple rules, such as the occurrence of three new cases of a single pathogen in two weeks on the same ward. This rule-based approach relies on the human eye to detect infection clusters within microbiology data (information collected on the pathogens isolated from patients), it focuses on a few pathogens, and it does not consider the random variation in infection rates or the possibility that clusters might be associated with shared facilities rather than with individual wards. In this study, the researchers test whether an automated statistical system can detect outbreaks of hospital-acquired infections quickly and accurately.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers combined two software packages used to track diseases in populations to create the WHONET-SaTScan cluster detection tool. They then compared the clusters of hospital-acquired infection identified by the new tool in microbiology data from a 750-bed US academic medical center with those generated by the hospital's infection control program, which was largely based on the simple rule described above. WHONET-SaTScan found 59 clusters of infection that occurred between 2002 and 2006, about three-quarters of which were identified by characteristics other than a ward-based location. Nearly half the cluster alerts were generated on the basis of shared antibiotic susceptibility patterns. Although WHONET-SaTScan identified all the clusters previously identified by the hospital's infection control program, it classified most of these clusters as likely to be the result of normal random variations in infection rates rather than the result of “true” outbreaks. By contrast, the hospital's infection control department only identified three of the 59 statistically significant clusters identified by WHONET-SaTScan. Furthermore, the new tool identified six previously unknown MRSA outbreaks and four previously unknown VRE outbreaks. Finally, two hospital epidemiologists (scientists who study diseases in populations) classified 95% of the clusters detected by WHONET-SaTScan as worthy of consideration by the hospital infection control team and a quarter of the clusters as warranting active investigation or intervention.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that automated statistical software should be able to detect clusters of hospital-acquired infections that would escape detection using routine rule-based systems. Importantly, they also suggest that an automated system would be able to discount a large number of supposed outbreaks identified by rule-based systems. These findings need to be confirmed in other settings and in prospective studies in which the outcomes of clusters detected with WHONET-SaTScan are carefully analyzed. For now, however, these findings suggest that automated statistical tools could provide hospital infection control experts with valuable real-time guidance by identifying outbreaks that would be missed by routine detection methods and by preventing the implementation of intensive and costly infection control measures in situations where they are unnecessary.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000238.
The World Health Organization's Prevention of Hospital-Acquired Infections, A Practical Guide contains detailed information on all aspects of hospital-acquired infections
MedlinePlus provides links to information on infection control in hospitals (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on infectious diseases in health care settings (in English and Spanish)
The WHONET/Baclink software and the SatScan software, the two components of WHONET-SaTScan are both available on the internet (the WHONET-SaTScan cluster detection tool is freely available as part of the version of WHONET/BacLink released June 2009)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000238
PMCID: PMC2826381  PMID: 20186274
13.  Readmissions after Hospitalization for Heart Failure, Acute Myocardial Infarction, or Pneumonia among Young and Middle-Aged Adults: A Retrospective Observational Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001737.
Isuru Ranasinghe and colleagues compare readmissions after hospitalization for heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, or pneumonia in adults aged 18 to 64 years with readmissions in those aged 65 and older.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Patients aged ≥65 years are vulnerable to readmissions due to a transient period of generalized risk after hospitalization. However, whether young and middle-aged adults share a similar risk pattern is uncertain. We compared the rate, timing, and readmission diagnoses following hospitalization for heart failure (HF), acute myocardial infarction (AMI), and pneumonia among patients aged 18–64 years with patients aged ≥65 years.
Methods and Findings
We used an all-payer administrative dataset from California consisting of all hospitalizations for HF (n = 206,141), AMI (n = 107,256), and pneumonia (n = 199,620) from 2007–2009. The primary outcomes were unplanned 30-day readmission rate, timing of readmission, and readmission diagnoses. Our findings show that the readmission rate among patients aged 18–64 years exceeded the readmission rate in patients aged ≥65 years in the HF cohort (23.4% vs. 22.0%, p<0.001), but was lower in the AMI (11.2% vs. 17.5%, p<0.001) and pneumonia (14.4% vs. 17.3%, p<0.001) cohorts. When adjusted for sex, race, comorbidities, and payer status, the 30-day readmission risk in patients aged 18–64 years was similar to patients ≥65 years in the HF (HR 0.99; 95%CI 0.97–1.02) and pneumonia (HR 0.97; 95%CI 0.94–1.01) cohorts and was marginally lower in the AMI cohort (HR 0.92; 95%CI 0.87–0.96). For all cohorts, the timing of readmission was similar; readmission risks were highest between days 2 and 5 and declined thereafter across all age groups. Diagnoses other than the index admission diagnosis accounted for a substantial proportion of readmissions among age groups <65 years; a non-cardiac diagnosis represented 39–44% of readmissions in the HF cohort and 37–45% of readmissions in the AMI cohort, while a non-pulmonary diagnosis represented 61–64% of patients in the pneumonia cohort.
Conclusion
When adjusted for differences in patient characteristics, young and middle-aged adults have 30-day readmission rates that are similar to elderly patients for HF, AMI, and pneumonia. A generalized risk after hospitalization is present regardless of age.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Many elderly people who are admitted to hospital, successfully treated, and discharged are readmitted soon after, often for an unrelated illness. In the US, for example, nearly a fifth of Medicare beneficiaries are readmitted to hospital within 30 days of discharge (Medicare is a national insurance program that primarily pays for health care services for Americans aged 65 and older). Experts have recently coined the term “post-hospital syndrome” for the transient period of increased susceptibility to a range of adverse health events that elderly patients seem to experience and have suggested that exposure to stress during hospital stays may underlie the syndrome. For example, hospital patients frequently have their sleep disrupted because of hospital routines, they are often in pain, they may have insufficient food intake (sometimes because they are waiting for an operation), and they may lose physical conditioning because they are confined to bed. These and other stressors can reduce individuals' natural reserves and increase their vulnerability to a range of illnesses and conditions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although stress is one possible determinant of the post-hospital syndrome, the underlying causes and patterns of hospital readmission are generally poorly understood. In particular, it is not known whether the post-hospital syndrome affects young and middle-aged patients as well as elderly patients. Importantly, a better understanding of the post-hospital syndrome is needed before effective strategies to reduce hospital readmissions can be developed. In this retrospective observational cohort study, the researchers compare readmission rates, timing, and diagnoses after hospitalization for heart failure (HF), acute myocardial infarction (AMI; heart attack), and pneumonia among patients aged 18–64 years living in California with readmission rates, timing, and diagnoses among patients aged 65 years or older hospitalized for the same conditions. A retrospective observational cohort study analyzes data that has been already been collected for a group (cohort) of people. Readmission is common among people of all ages who are admitted to hospital for HF, AMI, and pneumonia, and readmissions after hospitalization for these conditions among elderly Medicare patients are used in the US as a measure of hospital quality; hospitals with high readmission rates are subject to a Medicare reimbursement penalty.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project inpatient dataset for California to identify all the hospitalizations for HF, AMI, and pneumonia in California in 2007–2009 and to obtain data on the 30-day unplanned rehospitalization rate, timing of readmission, and readmission diagnoses for the identified patients (more than half a million patients). Nearly 30% of all hospital readmissions after hospitalization for HF, AMI, and pneumonia in California occurred among patients aged 18–64. After hospitalization for AMI, pneumonia, and HF, 11.2%, 14.4%, and 23.4%, respectively, of young and middle-aged patients were readmitted. Notably, the 30-day readmission rate among patients aged 18–64 admitted for HF exceeded the readmission rate among elderly patients admitted for the same condition. After allowing for other factors likely to affect the risk of readmission such as other illnesses, the 30-day readmission risk in patients aged 18–64 was similar to that in patients aged 65 years or older admitted for HF and pneumonia and only marginally lower among patients admitted for AMI. Finally, the timing of readmission was similar in both age groups and diagnoses other than the index admission diagnosis accounted for a substantial proportion of readmissions in both age groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that after adjusting for differences in patient characteristics, the 30-day hospital readmission rates among young and middle-aged patients after hospitalization for HF, AMI, and pneumonia were similar to those among elderly patients. Moreover, the timing of readmission and the reasons for readmission among young and middle-aged patients were similar to those among elderly patients. These findings may not apply to other US states or to other countries and may not reflect the pattern of hospital readmissions following conditions other than HF, AMI, and pneumonia. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the post-hospital syndrome affects young and middle-aged as well as elderly patients. Hospital readmission should therefore be considered as a potential problem for people of all ages and broad-based, multidisciplinary strategies that target patients of all ages should be developed to mitigate the risk of hospital readmissions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001737.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement provides information about reducing avoidable hospital readmissions
Information about the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services readmissions reduction program is available
An article written by one of the study authors about the post-hospital syndrome is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001737
PMCID: PMC4181962  PMID: 25268126
14.  Minimum Nurse Staffing Legislation and the Financial Performance of California Hospitals 
Health Services Research  2011;47(3 Pt 1):1030-1050.
Objective
To estimate the effect of minimum nurse staffing ratios on California acute care hospitals’ financial performance.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Secondary data from Medicare cost reports, the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Annual Survey, and the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) are combined from 2000 to 2006 for 203 hospitals in California and 407 hospitals in 12 comparison states.
Study Design
The study employs a difference-in-difference analytical approach. Hospitals are grouped into quartiles based on pre-regulation nurse staffing levels in adult medical-surgical and pediatric units (quartile 1 = lowest staffing). Differences in operating margin, operating expenses per day, and inpatient operating expenses per discharge for California hospitals within a staffing quartile during the period of regulation are compared to differences at hospitals in comparison states during the same period.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Hospital data from Medicare cost reports are merged with nurse staffing measures obtained from AHA and from OSPHD.
Principal Findings
Relative to hospitals in comparison states, operating margins declined significantly for California hospitals in quartiles 2 and 3. Operating expenses increased significantly in quartiles 1, 2 and 3.
Conclusions
Implementation of minimum nurse staffing legislation in California put substantial financial pressure on some hospitals.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01356.x
PMCID: PMC3337946  PMID: 22150627
Nurse staffing ratios; hospitals; financial performance; California; AB394
15.  Minimum Nurse Staffing Legislation and the Financial Performance of California Hospitals 
Health Services Research  2011;47(3 Pt 1):1030-1050.
Objective
To estimate the effect of minimum nurse staffing ratios on California acute care hospitals’ financial performance.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Secondary data from Medicare cost reports, the American Hospital Association's (AHA) Annual Survey, and the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) are combined from 2000 to 2006 for 203 hospitals in California and 407 hospitals in 12 comparison states.
Study Design
The study employs a difference-in-difference analytical approach. Hospitals are grouped into quartiles based on pre-regulation nurse staffing levels in adult medical-surgical and pediatric units (quartile 1 = lowest staffing). Differences in operating margin, operating expenses per day, and inpatient operating expenses per discharge for California hospitals within a staffing quartile during the period of regulation are compared to differences at hospitals in comparison states during the same period.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods
Hospital data from Medicare cost reports are merged with nurse staffing measures obtained from AHA and from OSPHD.
Principal Findings
Relative to hospitals in comparison states, operating margins declined significantly for California hospitals in quartiles 2 and 3. Operating expenses increased significantly in quartiles 1, 2, and 3.
Conclusions
Implementation of minimum nurse staffing legislation in California put substantial financial pressure on some hospitals.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01356.x
PMCID: PMC3337946  PMID: 22150627
Nurse staffing ratios; hospitals; financial performance; California; AB394
16.  Variation in Hospital Length of Stay: Do Physicians Adapt Their Length of Stay Decisions to What Is Usual in the Hospital Where They Work? 
Health Services Research  2006;41(2):374-394.
Objective
To test the hypothesis that physicians who work in different hospitals adapt their length of stay decisions to what is usual in the hospital under consideration.
Data Sources
Secondary data were used, originating from the Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System (SPARCS). SPARCS is a major management tool for assisting hospitals, agencies, and health care organizations with decision making in relation to financial planning and monitoring of inpatient and ambulatory surgery services and costs in New York state.
Study Design
Data on length of stay for surgical interventions and medical conditions (a total of seven diagnosis-related groups [DRGs]) were studied, to find out whether there is more variation between than within hospitals. Data (1999, 2000, and 2001) from all hospitals in New York state were used. The study examined physicians practicing in one hospital and physicians practicing in more than one hospital, to determine whether average length of stay differs according to the hospital of practice. Multilevel models were used to determine variation between and within hospitals. A t-test was used to test whether length of stay for patients of each multihospital physician differed from the average length of stay in each of the two hospitals.
Principal Findings
There is significantly (p<.05) more variation between than within hospitals in most of the study populations. Physicians working in two hospitals had patient lengths of stay comparable with the usual practice in the hospital where the procedure was performed. The proportion of physicians working in one hospital did not have a consistent effect for all DRGs on the variation within hospitals.
Conclusion
Physicians adapt to their colleagues or to the managerial demands of the particular hospital in which they work. The hospital and broader work environment should be taken into account when developing effective interventions to reduce variation in medical practice.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2005.00486.x
PMCID: PMC1702523  PMID: 16584454
Length of stay; variation; hospitals; multihospital physicians
17.  Characterisation of Clostridium difficile Hospital Ward–Based Transmission Using Extensive Epidemiological Data and Molecular Typing 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001172.
A population-based study in Oxfordshire (UK) hospitals by Sarah Walker and colleagues finds that in an endemic setting with good infection control, ward-based contact cannot account for most new cases of Clostridium difficile infection.
Background
Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is a leading cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and is endemic in hospitals, hindering the identification of sources and routes of transmission based on shared time and space alone. This may compromise rational control despite costly prevention strategies. This study aimed to investigate ward-based transmission of C. difficile, by subdividing outbreaks into distinct lineages defined by multi-locus sequence typing (MLST).
Methods and Findings
All C. difficile toxin enzyme-immunoassay-positive and culture-positive samples over 2.5 y from a geographically defined population of ∼600,000 persons underwent MLST. Sequence types (STs) were combined with admission and ward movement data from an integrated comprehensive healthcare system incorporating three hospitals (1,700 beds) providing all acute care for the defined geographical population. Networks of cases and potential transmission events were constructed for each ST. Potential infection sources for each case and transmission timescales were defined by prior ward-based contact with other cases sharing the same ST. From 1 September 2007 to 31 March 2010, there were means of 102 tests and 9.4 CDIs per 10,000 overnight stays in inpatients, and 238 tests and 15.7 CDIs per month in outpatients/primary care. In total, 1,276 C. difficile isolates of 69 STs were studied. From MLST, no more than 25% of cases could be linked to a potential ward-based inpatient source, ranging from 37% in renal/transplant, 29% in haematology/oncology, and 28% in acute/elderly medicine to 6% in specialist surgery. Most of the putative transmissions identified occurred shortly (≤1 wk) after the onset of symptoms (141/218, 65%), with few >8 wk (21/218, 10%). Most incubation periods were ≤4 wk (132/218, 61%), with few >12 wk (28/218, 13%). Allowing for persistent ward contamination following ward discharge of a CDI case did not increase the proportion of linked cases after allowing for random meeting of matched controls.
Conclusions
In an endemic setting with well-implemented infection control measures, ward-based contact with symptomatic enzyme-immunoassay-positive patients cannot account for most new CDI cases.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Hospital-acquired infections are common and occur when patients are infected with an organism found in the hospital or health-care environment. Hospital-acquired infections can sometimes cause no symptoms but often lead to illness or even death. A leading hospital-acquired infection is with the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium difficile, which causes gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, leading to severe illness and even death, especially in older patients or patients who are already seriously ill. Between 7% and 26% of elderly adult inpatients in hospitals may be asymptomatic carriers of C. difficile, and the spores that are formed by this organism can live outside of the human body for long periods of time and are notoriously resistant to most routine surface-cleaning methods. Following major hospital-associated outbreaks around the world, C. difficile infection has become a prime target for expensive prevention and infection control strategies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Prevention strategies and infection control measures have contributed to reducing the incidence of C. difficile infection, however, to date, there have not been any robust evaluations of the impact of such strategies in reducing the spread of infection at the individual level. In order to implement improved, cost-effective policies, and to work out how to reduce incidence even further, a better understanding of person-to-person spread is crucial, especially as infection with C. difficile depends on a combination of factors, such as antibiotic exposure and host susceptibility. Therefore, the researchers conducted this study to examine in detail the transmission of C. difficile in hospital wards in order to give more insight and information on the nature of person-to-person spread.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a population-based study in Oxfordshire, UK, to investigate hospital ward–based transmission of defined C. difficile strains from symptomatic patients by identifying C. difficile infection from routine clinical microbiological samples from 1 September 2007 to 31 March 2010. Throughout this period, Oxfordshire hospitals operated a rigorous infection control policy monitored by infection control staff, in which stool samples for C. difficile testing were taken from admitted patients with persistent diarrhea, and from patients with any diarrhea who were 65 years or older. The researchers tested all stool samples for C. difficile toxins by enzyme immunoassay, cultured positive samples, and genotyped C. difficile isolates by using multi-locus sequence typing (to identify strains, that is, sequence types), and finally, constructed networks of cases and potential transmissions (by tracing contacts for up to 26 weeks) for each sequence type identified.
In order to show which ward-based contacts potentially incorporated direct person-to-person spread and indirect transmission via the environment during shared ward exposure, the researchers analysed links (ward contacts) between the first case (the donor) and the second case (the recipient) for all pairs of cases with the same sequence type. The researchers then calculated the minimum infectious period by measuring the time between the first infected stool sample from the donor and ward contact with the recipient, and calculated the incubation period as the time between this ward contact and the first infected stool sample in the recipient. To reduce the possibility of shared ward contacts occurring by chance, the researchers used patients with negative enzyme immunoassay stool samples as controls to estimate how often such ward contacts reflected actual transmission rather than chance.
Over the study period, almost 30,000 stool samples from almost 15,000 patients were tested for C. difficile, with 4.4% (1,282) found positive for C. difficile in enzyme immunoassay and culture. With genotyping, the researchers identified 69 strains (sequence types) of C. difficile. The researchers found that the majority (66%) of cases of C. difficile infection were not linked to known cases, and only 23% had a credible ward-based donor sharing the same sequence type of C. difficile. Furthermore, the researchers found that most probable transmissions occurred less than one week after the onset of symptoms, with a minority (10%) occurring after eight weeks. Most incubation periods were less than four weeks, but a few (13%) were more than 12 weeks. Importantly, even after allowing for the random meeting of matched controls and for persistent ward contamination, the proportion of linked cases did not increase following ward discharge of a C. difficile infection case.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in an endemic setting with well-implemented infection control measures, ward-based contact with symptomatic, enzyme-immunoassay-positive patients cannot account for most new cases of C. difficile infection. Crucially, these findings mean that C. difficile infection might not be effectively controlled by current strategies to prevent person-to-person spread. Although the researchers were able to distinguish different strains of C. difficile, there were insufficient numbers of these different strains to deduce whether the results they obtained might be different if there was a different combination of strain types, that is, if some strains were spreading more in hospitals than others. Finally, in order to determine what other types of control interventions are required to reduce the spread of C. difficile, a better understanding of other routes of transmission and reservoirs of infectivity is needed.
Additional Information
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001172.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Stephan Harbarth and Matthew Samore
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about C. difficile infection, as does the UK Health Protection Agency
The World Health Organization has published a guide for preventing hospital-acquired infections
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001172
PMCID: PMC3274560  PMID: 22346738
18.  Trends In Complicated Newborn Hospital Stays & Costs, 2002–2009: Implications For The Future 
Medicare & Medicaid Research Review  2014;4(4):mmrr2014-004-04-a03.
Background
With the steady growth in Medicaid enrollment since the recent recession, concerns have been raised about care for newborns with complications. This paper uses all-payer administrative data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), to examine trends from 2002 through 2009 in complicated newborn hospital stays, and explores the relationship between expected sources of payment and reasons for hospitalizations.
Methods
Trends in complicated newborn stays, expected sources of payment, costs, and length of stay were examined. A logistic regression was conducted to explore likely payer source for the most prevalent diagnoses in 2009.
Results
Complicated births and hospital discharges within 30 days of birth remained relatively constant between 2002 and 2009, but average costs per discharge increased substantially (p<.001 for trend). Most strikingly, over time, the proportion of complicated births billed to Medicaid increased, while the proportion paid by private payers decreased. Among complicated births, the most prevalent diagnoses were preterm birth/low birth weight (23%), respiratory distress (18%), and jaundice (10%). The top two diagnoses (41% of newborns) accounted for 61% of the aggregate cost. For infants with complications, those with Medicaid were more likely to be complicated due to preterm birth/low birth weight and respiratory distress, while those with private insurance were more likely to be complicated due to jaundice.
Conclusions
State Medicaid programs are paying for an increasing proportion of births and costly complicated births. Policies to prevent common birth complications have the potential to reduce costs for public programs and improve birth outcomes.
doi:10.5600/mmrr.004.04.a03
PMCID: PMC4254335  PMID: 25485174
complicated births; newborns; preterm birth; low birth weight; Medicaid; HCUP
19.  Hospital at home admission avoidance 
Background
Admission avoidance hospital at home is a service that provides active treatment by health care professionals in the patient’s home for a condition that otherwise would require acute hospital in-patient care, and always for a limited time period. In particular, hospital at home has to offer a specific service to patients in their home requiring health care professionals to take an active part in the patients’ care. If hospital at home were not available then the patient would be admitted to an acute hospital ward. Many countries are adopting this type of care in an attempt to reduce the demand for acute hospital admission.
Objectives
To determine, in the context of a systematic review and meta analysis, the effectiveness and cost of managing patients with admission avoidance hospital at home compared with in-patient hospital care.
Search methods
The following databases were searched through to January 2008: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, EconLit and the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group (EPOC) register. We checked the reference lists of articles identified electronically for evaluations of hospital at home and obtained potentially relevant articles. Unpublished studies were sought by contacting providers and researchers who were known to be involved in this field.
Selection criteria
Randomised controlled trials recruiting patients aged 18 years and over. Studies comparing admission avoidance hospital at home with acute hospital in-patient care. The admission avoidance hospital at home interventions may admit patients directly from the community thereby avoiding physical contact with the hospital, or may admit from the emergency room.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently extracted data and assessed study quality. Our statistical analyses sought to include all randomised patients and were done on an intention to treat basis. We requested individual patient data (IPD) from trialists, and relied on published data when we did not receive trial data sets or the IPD did not include the relevant outcomes. When combining outcome data was not possible because of differences in the reporting of outcomes we have presented the data in narrative summary tables.
For the IPD meta-analysis, where at least one event was reported in both study groups in a trial, Cox regression models were used to calculate the log hazard ratio and its standard error for mortality and readmission separately for each data set (where both outcomes were available). We included randomisation group (admission avoidance hospital at home versus control), age (above or below the median), and gender in the models. The calculated log hazard ratios were combined using fixed effects inverse variance meta analysis. If there were no events in one group we used the Peto odds ratio method to calculate a log odds ratio from the sum of the log-rank test ‘O-E’ statistics from a Kaplan Meier survival analysis. Statistical significance throughout was taken at the two-sided 5% level (p<0.05) and data are presented as the estimated effect with 95% confidence intervals. For each comparison using published data for dichotomous outcomes we calculated risk ratios using a fixed effects model to combine data.
Main results
We included 10 RCTs (n=1333), seven of which were eligible for the IPD. Five out of these seven trials contributed to the IPD meta-analysis (n=850/975; 87%). There was a non significant reduction in mortality at three months for the admission avoidance hospital at home group (adjusted HR 0.77, 95% CI 0.54 to 1.09; p=0.15), which reached significance at six months follow-up (adjusted HR 0.62, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.87; p=0.005). A non significant increase in admissions was observed for patients allocated to hospital at home (adjusted HR 1.49, 95% CI 0.96 to 2.33; p=0.08). Few differences were reported for functional ability, quality of life or cognitive ability. Patients reported increased satisfaction with admission avoidance hospital at home. Two trials conducted a full economic analysis, when the costs of informal care were excluded admission avoidance hospital at home was less expensive than admission to an acute hospital ward.
Authors’ conclusions
We performed meta-analyses where there was sufficient similarity among the trials and where common outcomes had been measured. There is no evidence from the analysis to suggest that admission avoidance hospital at home leads to outcomes that differ from inpatient hospital care.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007491
PMCID: PMC4033791  PMID: 18843751
Home Care Services [economics; *organization & administration]; Home Care Services, Hospital-Based [economics; *organization & administration]; Hospitalization; Outcome and Process Assessment (Health Care); Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Humans
20.  National Burden of Preventable Adverse Drug Events Associated with Inpatient Injectable Medications: Healthcare and Medical Professional Liability Costs 
Background
Harmful medication errors, or preventable adverse drug events (ADEs), are a prominent quality and cost issue in healthcare. Injectable medications are important therapeutic agents, but they are associated with a greater potential for serious harm than oral medications. The national burden of preventable ADEs associated with inpatient injectable medications and the associated medical professional liability (MPL) costs have not been previously described in the literature.
Objective
To quantify the economic burden of preventable ADEs related to inpatient injectable medications in the United States.
Methods
Medical error data (MedMarx 2009–2011) were utilized to derive the distribution of errors by injectable medication types. Hospital data (Premier 2010–2011) identified the numbers and the types of injections per hospitalization. US payer claims (2009–2010 MarketScan Commercial and Medicare 5% Sample) were used to calculate the incremental cost of ADEs by payer and by diagnosis-related group (DRG). The incremental cost of ADEs was defined as inclusive of the time of inpatient admission and the following 4 months. Actuarial calculations, assumptions based on published literature, and DRG proportions from 17 state discharge databases were used to derive the probability of preventable ADEs per hospitalization and their annual costs. MPL costs were assessed from state- and national-level industry reports, premium rates, and from closed claims databases between 1990 and 2011. The 2010 American Hospital Association database was used for hospital-level statistics. All costs were adjusted to 2013 dollars.
Results
Based on this medication-level analysis of reported harmful errors and the frequency of inpatient administrations with actuarial projections, we estimate that preventable ADEs associated with injectable medications impact 1.2 million hospitalizations annually. Using a matched cohort analysis of healthcare claims as a basis for evaluating incremental costs, we estimate that inpatient preventable ADEs associated with injectable medications increase the annual US payer costs by $2.7 billion to $5.1 billion, averaging $600,000 in extra costs per hospital. Across categories of injectable drugs, insulin had the highest risk per administration for a preventable ADE, although errors in the higher-volume categories of anti-infective, narcotic/analgesic, anticoagulant/thrombolytic and anxiolytic/sedative injectable medications harmed more patients. Our analysis of liability claims estimates that MPL associated with injectable medications totals $300 million to $610 million annually, with an average cost of $72,000 per US hospital.
Conclusion
The incremental healthcare and MPL costs of preventable ADEs resulting from inpatient injectable medications are substantial. The data in this study strongly support the clinical and business cases of investing in efforts to prevent errors related to injectable medications.
PMCID: PMC4031698  PMID: 24991335
21.  Costs and consequences of treatment for mild gestational diabetes mellitus – evaluation from the ACHOIS randomised trial 
Background
Recommended best practice is that economic evaluation of health care interventions should be integral with randomised clinical trials. We performed a cost-consequence analysis of treating women with mild gestational diabetes mellitus by dietary advice, blood glucose monitoring and insulin therapy as needed compared with routine pregnancy care, using patient-level data from a multi-centre randomised clinical trial.
Methods
Women with a singleton pregnancy who had mild gestational diabetes diagnosed by an oral glucose-tolerance test between 24 and 34 weeks' gestation and their infants were included. Clinical outcomes and outpatient costs derived from all women and infants in the trial. Inpatient costs derived from women and infants attending the hospital contributing the largest number of enrolments (26.1%), and charges to women and their families derived from a subsample of participants from that hospital (in 2002 Australian dollars). Occasions of service and health outcomes were adjusted for maternal age, ethnicity and parity. Analysis of variance was used with bootstrapping to confirm results. Primary clinical outcomes were serious perinatal complications; admission to neonatal nursery; jaundice requiring phototherapy; induction of labour and caesarean delivery. Economic outcome measures were outpatient and inpatient costs, and charges to women and their families.
Results
For every 100 women with a singleton pregnancy and positive oral glucose tolerance test who were offered treatment for mild gestational diabetes mellitus in addition to routine obstetric care, $53,985 additional direct costs were incurred at the obstetric hospital, $6,521 additional charges were incurred by women and their families, 9.7 additional women experienced induction of labour, and 8.6 more babies were admitted to a neonatal nursery. However, 2.2 fewer babies experienced serious perinatal complication and 1.0 fewer babies experienced perinatal death. The incremental cost per additional serious perinatal complication prevented was $27,503, per perinatal death prevented was $60,506 and per discounted life-year gained was $2,988.
Conclusion
It is likely that the general public in high-income countries such as Australia would find reductions in perinatal mortality and in serious perinatal complications sufficient to justify additional health service and personal monetary charges. Over the whole lifespan, the incremental cost per extra life-year gained is highly favourable.
Trial Registration
Australian Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12606000294550
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-7-27
PMCID: PMC2241640  PMID: 17963528
22.  Impact of Nurse Staffing Mandates on Safety-Net Hospitals: Lessons from California 
The Milbank Quarterly  2012;90(1):160-186.
Context
California is the first and only state to implement a patient-to-nurse ratio mandate for hospitals. Increasing nurse staffing is an important organizational intervention for improving patient outcomes. Evidence suggests that staffing improved in California hospitals after the mandate was enacted, but the outcome for hospitals bearing a disproportionate share of uncompensated care—safety-net hospitals—remains unclear. One concern was that California’s mandate would burden safety-net hospitals without improving staffing or that hospitals would reduce their skill mix, that is, the proportion of registered nurses of all nursing staff. We examined the differential effect of California’s staffing mandate on safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals.
Methods
We used a time-series design with Annual Hospital Disclosure data files from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) for the years 1998 to 2007 to assess differences in the effect of California’s mandate on staffing outcomes in safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals.
Findings
The mandate resulted in significant staffing improvements, on average nearly a full patient per nurse fewer (−0.98) for all California hospitals. The greatest effect was in those hospitals with the lowest staffing levels at the outset, both safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals, as the legislation intended. The mandate led to significantly improved staffing levels for safety-net hospitals, although there was a small but significant difference in the effect on staffing levels of safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals. Regarding skill mix, a marginally higher proportion of registered nurses was seen in non-safety-net hospitals following the mandate, while the skill mix remained essentially unchanged for safety-net hospitals. The difference between the two groups of hospitals was not significant.
Conclusions
California’s mandate improved staffing for all hospitals, including safety-net hospitals. Furthermore, improvement did not come at the cost of a reduced skill mix, as was feared. Alternative and more targeted designs, however, might yield further improvement for safety-net hospitals and reduce potential disparities in the staffing and skill mix of safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals.
doi:10.1111/j.1468-0009.2011.00658.x
PMCID: PMC3371663  PMID: 22428696
Safety net; nursing; nurse staffing; California; mandate
23.  Dissemination of the nurse-administered Tobacco Tactics intervention versus usual care in six Trinity community hospitals: study protocol for a comparative effectiveness trial 
Trials  2012;13:125.
Background
The objectives of this smoking cessation study among hospitalized smokers are to: 1) determine provider and patient receptivity, barriers, and facilitators to implementing the nurse-administered, inpatient Tobacco Tactics intervention versus usual care using face-to-face feedback and surveys; 2) compare the effectiveness of the nurse-administered, inpatient Tobacco Tactics intervention versus usual care across hospitals, units, and patient characteristics using thirty-day point prevalence abstinence at thirty days and six months (primary outcome) post-recruitment; and 3) determine the cost-effectiveness of the nurse-administered, inpatient Tobacco Tactics intervention relative to usual care including cost per quitter, cost per life-year saved, and cost per quality-adjusted life-year saved.
Methods/Design
This effectiveness study will be a quasi-experimental design of six Michigan community hospitals of which three will get the nurse-administered Tobacco Tactics intervention and three will provide their usual care. In both the intervention and usual care sites, research assistants will collect data from patients on their smoking habits and related variables while in the hospital and at thirty days and six months post-recruitment. The intervention will be integrated into the experimental sites by a research nurse who will train Master Trainers at each intervention site. The Master Trainers, in turn, will teach the intervention to all staff nurses. Research nurses will also conduct formative evaluation with nurses to identify barriers and facilitators to dissemination.
Descriptive statistics will be used to summarize the results of surveys administered to nurses, nurses’ participation rates, smokers’ receipt of specific cessation services, and satisfaction with services. General estimating equation analyses will be used to determine differences between intervention groups on satisfaction and quit rates, respectively, with adjustment for the clustering of patients within hospital units. Regression analyses will test the moderation of the effects of the interventions by patient characteristics. Cost-effectiveness will be assessed by constructing three ratios including cost per quitter, cost per life-year saved, and cost per quality-adjusted life-year saved.
Discussion
Given that nurses represent the largest group of front-line providers, this intervention, if proven effective, has the potential for having a wide reach and thus decrease smoking, morbidity and mortality among inpatient smokers.
Trial registration
Dissemination of Tobacco Tactics for Hospitalized Smokers NCT01309217
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-13-125
PMCID: PMC3533810  PMID: 22852834
Smoking; Cessation; Inpatient
24.  The Effectiveness of Emergency Obstetric Referral Interventions in Developing Country Settings: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001264.
In a systematic review of the literature, Julia Hussein and colleagues seek to determine the effect of referral interventions that enable emergency access to health facilities for pregnant women living in developing countries.
Background
Pregnancy complications can be unpredictable and many women in developing countries cannot access health facilities where life-saving care is available. This study assesses the effects of referral interventions that enable pregnant women to reach health facilities during an emergency, after the decision to seek care is made.
Methods and findings
Selected bibliographic databases were searched with no date or language restrictions. Randomised controlled trials and quasi experimental study designs with a comparison group were included. Outcomes of interest included maternal and neonatal mortality and other intermediate measures such as service utilisation. Two reviewers independently selected, appraised, and extracted articles using predefined fields. Forest plots, tables, and qualitative summaries of study quality, size, and direction of effect were used for analysis.
Nineteen studies were included. In South Asian settings, four studies of organisational interventions in communities that generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths, with the largest effect seen in India (odds ratio 0·48 95% CI 0·34–0·68). Three quasi experimental studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported reductions in stillbirths with maternity waiting home interventions, with one statistically significant result (OR 0.56 95% CI 0.32–0.96). Effects of interventions on maternal mortality were unclear. Referral interventions usually improved utilisation of health services but the opposite effect was also documented. The effects of multiple interventions in the studies could not be disentangled. Explanatory mechanisms through which the interventions worked could not be ascertained.
Conclusions
Community mobilisation interventions may reduce neonatal mortality but the contribution of referral components cannot be ascertained. The reduction in stillbirth rates resulting from maternity waiting homes needs further study. Referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. To inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, improved monitoring and evaluation practices are necessary, along with studies that develop better understanding of how interventions work.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all of these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 and a woman's life-time risk of dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 39. By contrast, the MMR in industrialized countries is 12 and women have a life-time risk of maternal death of 1 in 4,700. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, all of which are preventable or treatable conditions. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict which women will develop pregnancy complications, many complications rapidly become life-threatening and, in developing countries, women often deliver at home, far from emergency obstetric services; obstetrics deals with the care of women and their children during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period.
Why Was This Study Done?
It should be possible to reduce maternal deaths (and the deaths of babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and early life) in developing countries by ensuring that pregnant women are referred to emergency obstetric services quickly when the need arises. Unfortunately, in such countries referral to emergency obstetric care is beset with problems such as difficult geographical terrain, transport costs, lack of vehicles, and suboptimal location and distribution of health care facilities. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers assess the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce the “phase II delay” in referral to emergency obstetric care in developing countries—the time it takes a woman to reach an appropriate health care facility once a problem has been recognized and the decision has been taken to seek care. Delays in diagnosis and the decision to seek care are phase I delays in referral, whereas delays in receiving care once a women reaches a health care facility are phase III delays.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 19 published studies that described 14 interventions designed to overcome phase II delays in emergency obstetric referral and that met their criteria for inclusion in their systematic review. About half of the interventions were organizational. That is, they were designed to overcome barriers to referral such as costs. Most of the remaining interventions were structural. That is, they involved the provision of, for example, ambulances and maternity waiting homes—placed close to a health care facility where women can stay during late pregnancy. Although seven studies provided data on maternal mortality, none showed a sustained, statistically significant reduction (a reduction unlikely to have occurred by chance) in maternal deaths. Four studies in South Asia in which communities generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths (deaths of babies soon after birth), but the only statistically significant effect of this community mobilization intervention was seen in India where neonatal deaths were halved. Three studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported that the introduction of maternity waiting homes reduced stillbirths but this reduction was only significant in one study. Finally, although referral interventions generally improved the utilization of health services, in one study the provision of bicycle ambulances to take women to the hospital reduced the proportion of women delivering in health facilities, probably because women felt that bicycle ambulances drew unwanted attention to them during labor and so preferred to stay at home.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that community mobilization interventions may reduce neonatal mortality and that maternity waiting rooms may reduce stillbirths. Importantly, they also highlight how referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. However, because the studies included in this systematic review included multiple interventions designed to reduce delays at several stages of the referral process, it is not possible to disentangle the contribution of each component of the intervention. Moreover, it is impossible at present to determine why (or even if) any of the interventions reduced maternal mortality. Thus, the researchers conclude, improved monitoring of interventions and better evaluation of outcomes is essential to inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, and more studies are needed to improve understanding of how referral interventions work.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF./UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Veil of Tears contains personal stories from Afghanistan about loss in childbirth; the non-governmental health development organization AMREF provides personal stories about maternal health in Africa
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264
PMCID: PMC3393680  PMID: 22807658
25.  Impact of date stamping on patient safety measurement in patients undergoing CABG: Experience with the AHRQ Patient Safety Indicators 
Background
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) provide information on hospital risk-adjusted rates for potentially preventable adverse events. Although designed to work with routine administrative data, it is unknown whether the PSIs can accurately distinguish between complications and pre-existing conditions. The objective of this study is to examine whether the AHRQ PSIs accurately measure hospital complication rates, using the data with present-on-admission (POA) codes to distinguish between complications and pre-existing conditions
Methods
Retrospective cohort study of patients undergoing isolated CABG surgery in California conducted using the 1998–2000 California State Inpatient Database. We calculated the positive predictive value of selected AHRQ PSIs using information from the POA as the gold standard, and the intra-class correlation coefficient to assess the level of agreement between the hospital risk-adjusted PSI rates with and without the information contained in the POA modifier.
Results
The false positive error rate, defined as one minus the positive predictive value, was greater than or equal to 20% for four of the eight PSIs examined: decubitus ulcer, failure-to-rescue, postoperative physiologic and metabolic derangement, and postoperative pulmonary embolism or deep venous thrombosis. Pairwise comparison of the hospital risk-adjusted PSI rates, with and without POA information, demonstrated almost perfect agreement for five of the eight PSI's. For decubitus ulcer, failure-to-rescue, and postoperative pulmonary embolism or DVT, the intraclass-correlation coefficient ranged between 0.63 to 0.79.
Conclusion
For some of the AHRQ Patient Safety Indicators, there are significant differences in the risk-adjusted rates of adverse events depending on whether the POA indicator is used to distinguish between pre-existing conditions and complications. The use of the POA indicator will increase the accuracy of the AHRQ PSIs as measures of adverse outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-176
PMCID: PMC2529290  PMID: 18700979

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