Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Health Care Systems, JAMA, Outcomes & Safety / 25.11.2015

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Anup Das Medical Scientist Training Program Department of Health Management and Policy University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently added a new measure of episode spending to the Hospital Value Based Purchasing program. Participation in this program allows hospitals to receive a financial bonus if they perform well on the included measures. This is the first spending measure in the program, and this change now incentivizes hospitals to improve their quality as well as their spending. The measure evaluates spending from three days before a hospitalization through 30 days post-discharge. In this study, we find that while high-cost hospitals had higher spending levels in each of the three components of an episode of care (pre-admission, index admission, and post-discharge), differences in post-discharge spending were the main determinants of hospital performance on this measure. High-cost hospitals spent on average $4,691 more than low-cost hospitals in post-discharge care. The majority of post-discharge spending comes from skilled nursing facility or readmission costs. Similarly, hospitals that did worse on this new measure of spending over time did so because of increases in their post-discharge spending. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Surgical Research / 16.10.2015

Richard S. Hoehn, MD Division of Transplant Surgery Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati School of Medicine Cincinnati, OHMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Richard S. Hoehn, MD Division of Transplant Surgery Department of Surgery University of Cincinnati School of Medicine Cincinnati, OH Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hoehn: Safety-net hospitals are hospitals that either have a stated purpose of maintaining an “open door policy” to all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, or simply have a significantly high burden of patients with Medicaid or no insurance. As healthcare policy and reimbursement change to focus on both “quality” metrics as well as cost containment, these hospitals may find themselves in a precarious situation. Current literature suggests that increased safety-net burden corresponds to inferior surgical outcomes. If this is true, safety-net hospitals will have inferior outcomes and suffer more financial penalties than other centers. This decrease in resources may adversely affect patient care, leading to even worse outcomes and further financial penalties, potentially creating a downward spiral that exacerbates disparities in surgical care that already exist in our country. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Hoehn: Our study analyzed 9 major surgical operations using the University HealthSystem Consortium clinical database, which represents 95% of academic medical centers in the United States. We sought to determine the effect of patient and hospital characteristics on the inferior outcomes at safety-net hospitals. As expected, we found that safety-net hospitals had higher rates of patients who were of black race, of lowest socioeconomic status, had government insurance, had extreme severity of illness, and needed emergent operations. They also had the highest rates of post-operative mortality, 30-day readmissions, and highest costs associated with care. Next we performed a multivariate analysis controlling for patient age, race, socioeconomic status, and severity of illness, as well as hospital procedure-specific volume. Using this model, we found that the increased mortality and readmission rates at safety-net hospitals were somewhat reduced, but the increased costs were not affected. Safety-net hospitals still provided surgical care that was 23-35% more expensive, despite controlling for patient characteristics. This suggests that intrinsic hospital characteristics may be responsible for the increased costs at safety-net hospitals. To further investigate this finding, we analyzed Medicare Hospital Compare data and found that safety-net hospitals performed worse on Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP) measures, had higher rates of reported surgical complications, and also had much slower measures of emergency department throughput (time from arrival to evaluation, treatment, admission, etc). This corresponded with our finding that hospital characteristics may be driving increased costs at safety-net hospitals. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Kaiser Permanente, Long Term Care, Medicare / 11.06.2015

Yan S. Kim, MD PhD Delivery Science Fellow Division of Research Kaiser Permanente Northern California Oakland, CA 94612MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Yan S. Kim, MD PhD Delivery Science Fellow Division of Research Kaiser Permanente Northern California Oakland, CA 94612 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kim: Long-term care hospitals first emerged in the 1980s as an alternative to lengthy acute-care hospital stays for patients with complex medical problems who need prolonged hospital-level care.  In 2002, Medicare changed its payment method for these facilities from cost-based to a lump sum per admission based on the diagnosis.  Under this system, which is still in place, Medicare pays these hospitals a higher rate for patients who stay a minimum number of days based on the patient's condition.  Shorter stays are paid much less and longer stays do not necessary generate higher reimbursements. Using Medicare data, we analyzed a national sample of patients who required prolonged mechanical ventilation – the most common, and among the most costly, conditions for patients in long-term care hospitals – to examine whether this payment policy has created incentives to base discharge decisions on payments.  We found that in the years after the policy’s implementation there was a substantial spike in the percentage of discharges on and immediately after the minimum-stay threshold was met, while very few patients were discharged before the threshold. By contrast, prior to 2002, discharges were evenly distributed around the day that later became the short-stay threshold.  These findings confirm that the current payment policy has created unintended incentives for long-term care hospitals to base the timing of patient discharges on payments and highlight how responsive these hospitals are to payment incentives. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Electronic Records, JACC, Stroke / 11.05.2015

Dr. Karen E. Joynt, MD MPH Cardiovascular Division Brigham and Women's Hospital and VA Boston Healthcare System Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public HealthMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Karen E. Joynt, MD MPH Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital and VA Boston Healthcare System Department of Health Policy and Management Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings? Dr. Joynt: While there is a great deal of optimism about the potential of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) to improve health care, there is little national data examining whether hospitals that have implemented EHRs have higher-quality care or better patient outcomes.  We used national data on 626,473 patients with ischemic stroke to compare quality and outcomes between hospitals with versus without EHRs.  We found no difference in quality of care, discharge home (a marker of good functional status), or in-hospital mortality between hospital with versus without EHRs.  We did find that the chances of having a long length of stay were slightly lower in hospitals with EHRs than those without them. (more…)
Author Interviews, Health Care Systems, Medicare / 02.03.2015

Ann M. Sheehy, M.D., M.S. Associate Professor Division Head, Hospital Medicine University of Wisconsin Department of MedicineMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Ann M. Sheehy, M.D., M.S. Associate Professor Division Head, Hospital Medicine University of Wisconsin Department of Medicine MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sheehy: Outpatient (observation) and inpatient status determinations are important for hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries. The Recovery Audit program, more commonly known as the RACs (Recovery Audit Contractors), is charged with surveillance and enforcement of such status determinations. Surveillance in the Medicare program is necessary, and Medicare fraud and abuse should not be tolerated. However, there are increasing concerns regarding RAC accuracy, auditor financial incentives, and the volume of audits and overpayment determinations auditors allege. We therefore studied Complex Medicare Part A RAC audits at 3 academic medical centers, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Utah, and Johns Hopkins, to determine the impact and trends of such audits. There was a nearly 300% increase in RAC overpayment determinations in just 2 years at the study hospitals. Each year, the hospitals won a greater percent of contested cases, winning 68.0% of cases with decisions in 2013. Two-thirds of all favorable decisions for the hospitals occurred in the discussion period. Because discussion is not considered part of the formal appeals process, this is omitted from reports of RAC accuracy. None of the overpayment determinations contested the need for the care delivered, rather contested the billing location, outpatient or inpatient. The hospitals averaged 5 FTE each to manage the audit and appeals process. Claims still in appeals had been in process for a mean of 555 days without decisions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care / 13.02.2015

John Romley Ph.D Economist at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics Research Assistant Professor Sol Price School of Public Policy University of Southern California, Los Angeles.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: John Romley Ph.D Economist at the Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics Research Assistant Professor Sol Price School of Public Policy University of Southern California, Los Angeles. MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Romley: The need for better value in US health care is widely recognized. Existing evidence suggests that improvement in the productivity of American hospitals—that is, the output that hospitals produce from inputs such as labor and capital—has lagged behind that of other industries. However, previous studies have not adequately addressed quality of care or severity of patient illness. Our study, by contrast, adjusts for trends in the severity of patients’ conditions and health outcomes. We studied productivity growth among US hospitals in treating Medicare patients with heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia during 2002–11. We found that the rates of annual productivity growth were 0.78 percent for heart attack, 0.62 percent for heart failure, and 1.90 percent for pneumonia. (more…)
Author Interviews, Outcomes & Safety, UCSF / 23.10.2014

Barbara J. Drew, RN, PhD, FAAN, FAHA David Mortara Distinguished Professor in Physiological Nursing Research Clinical Professor of Medicine, Cardiology University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Department of Physiological Nursing San Francisco, CA 94143-0610 MedicalResearch.com: Interview Barbara J. Drew, RN, PhD, FAAN, FAHA David Mortara Distinguished Professor in Physiological Nursing Research, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Cardiology University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Department of Physiological Nursing San Francisco, CA 94143-0610 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Drew: Physiologic monitors used in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) are plagued with alarms that create a cacophony of sounds and visual alerts causing “alarm fatigue.” Alarm fatigue occurs when clinicians are desensitized by numerous alarms, many of which are false or clinically irrelevant. As a result, the cacophony of alarm sounds becomes “background noise” that is perceived as the normal working environment in the ICU. Importantly, alarms may be silenced at the central station without checking the patient or permanently disabled by clinicians who find the constant audible or textual messages bothersome. Disabling alarms creates an unsafe patient environment because a life-threatening event may be missed in this milieu of sensory overload. To date, there has not been a comprehensive investigation of the frequency, types, and accuracy of physiologic monitor alarms collected in a “real-world” ICU setting. For this reason, nurse and engineer scientists in the ECG Monitoring Research Laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) designed a study to provide complete data on monitor alarms. (more…)
Author Interviews, End of Life Care, Erasmus / 15.10.2014

F.E. (Erica) Witkamp RN MSc Senior lecturer University of Applied Sciences Erasmus MC and Erasmus MC Cancer Institute Rotterdam, The Netherlands.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: F.E. (Erica) Witkamp RN MSc Senior lecturer University of Applied Sciences Erasmus MC and Erasmus MC Cancer Institute Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Response: We investigated the experiences of 249 bereaved relatives (response 51%) of patients who had died in the hospital, after a hospitalization of at least six hours. The main outcome measure was their global score of the quality of dying (QOD) on a 0-10 scale, with zero being “very poor” and ten “almost perfect”. Further, we assessed multiple experiences in the last days of life, such as symptom burden, preparedness for life closure, awareness of impending death, and care in the last days of life. We analyzed which of these factors was related to the quality of dying score, and subsequently whether the related factors represented specific domains of the dying phase. Relatives rated the overall score of QOD on average at 6.3 (sd 2.7) with a range from 0-10. During the last day(s) of life, 26% of the patients, and 49% of the relatives had been fully aware of imminent death. In the end 39% of the patients and 50% of the relatives had said goodbye; 77% of the patients had died in the presence of a relative. According to relatives patients had suffered moderately to severely from on average 7 out of 22 symptoms. In 53% relatives reported that in the last 24 hours symptoms had sufficiently been alleviated; efforts to control symptoms had been sufficient in 75%. In 64% relatives had been informed by the physician about the imminence of death, and in 70% they were satisfied about their involvement in decision making. In 55% relatives had experienced sufficient attention to individual preferences and wishes, and in 70% hospital facilities had been sufficient. Patients had been sufficiently affirmed as a person in 63%. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care / 08.09.2014

Steffie Woolhandler MD MPH Professor at the School of Public Health and Hunter College, CUNY; Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School Cambridge HospitalMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Steffie Woolhandler MD MPH Professor School of Public Health and Hunter College, CUNY; Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School Cambridge Hospital Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Woolhandler: In 2011, U.S. hospitals spent $215 billion on billing and administration. Meanwhile, other countries spent far less. None of the other seven countries we studied spent even half as much as the U.S., and they all have modern, high quality hospitals. While we spent nearly $700 per capita on hospital paperwork, Scotland and Canada spent less than $200. This means that if U.S. hospitals ran as efficiently as Canada’s, the average family of four would save $2,000 annually on health care. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Johns Hopkins, Outcomes & Safety / 20.08.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Sosena Kebede, MD, MPH Assistant Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine Associate Faculty, the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Faculty, Department of Health Policy and Management and Baltimore, MD 21287Sosena Kebede, MD, MPH Assistant Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine Associate Faculty, the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Faculty, Department of Health Policy and Management and Baltimore, MD 21287 Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Kebede: There were 3 main findings in this study: 1.       Patients’ understanding of aspects of their hospital care is suboptimal on the domains of knowledge of diagnoses, indications for the medications they take and the types of procedures/tests they get. Some forms of poor shared understanding could have potentially serious implications for their health and for future care such as identifying a prescribed antidepressant as a blood thinner or mistaking an echocardiogram a left heart catheterization or thinking a liver cyst is a liver cancer. Other forms of poor shared understanding such as not accurately identifying why a procedure is done or what the results of the procedure show (a finding not discussed in the research letter) may seem less consequential  but raise the issue of informed consent, patient empowerment and may alsoraise questions about patient and physician behavior towards appropriate use of in-patient procedures. Some of the questions we could ask here include: would patients demand more or less procedures if they had better understanding of what the procedures entail, and why they are beingordered? Conversely, would physicians recommend more or less of in-patient procedures, when they encounter patients whose understanding of procedure indications are optimal? (more…)
Author Interviews, Education, JAMA / 22.07.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Brian M. Wong, MD, FRCPC Staff Physician, Division of General Internal Medicine Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine Director, Continuing Education & Quality Improvement Associate Director, Centre for Quality Improvement & Patient Safety (C-QuIPS) Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre Lisa Richardson, MD., MA, FRCPC Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Division of General Internal Medicine, University Health Network, HoPingKong Centre for Excellence in Education and Practice, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Answer: Our study sought to characterize how many clinically important issues that occur during the overnight on-call period were handed over and discussed by the on-call resident with the daytime medical team. For example, if a patient developed chest pain in the middle of the night and the on-call resident evaluated the patient, did the resident then 'handover' this issue to the team the next morning so that they could follow up and make sure that the patient receives timely care? In our study, we found that approximately 40% of these issues did not get handed over. This finding was consistent across 2 major Canadian academic teaching hospitals. (more…)
Author Interviews, Hospital Readmissions, JAMA / 17.06.2014

Greg D. Sacks, MD, MPH Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Greg D. Sacks, MD, MPH Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of this study? Dr. Sacks: This study evaluated the all-cause readmissions measure developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to penalize hospitals for unplanned readmissions. By evaluating readmissions of surgical patients at a single academic medical center, we found that the readmissions measure was able to identify only a third of the planned readmissions and mislabeled the remaining two thirds of planned readmissions as unplanned. This discrepancy was a result of the measure’s reliance on administrative claims data, which disagreed in 31% of cases with clinical data abstracted from the patient’s chart. Also, almost a third (27%) of the readmissions in this study were for reasons unrelated to the original hospitalization. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, General Medicine, Hospital Readmissions / 04.06.2014

Cindy Feltner, MD, MPH Assistant Professor, Division of General Medicine University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill RTI- UNC Evidence-based Practice CenterMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Cindy Feltner, MD, MPH Assistant Professor, Division of General Medicine University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill RTI- UNC Evidence-based Practice Center MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Feltner: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the efficacy, comparative effectiveness, and harms of transitional care interventions to reduce readmission and mortality rates for adults hospitalized with heart failure. We included a broad range of intervention types applicable to adults transitioning from hospital to home that aimed to prevent readmissions. Although 30-day readmissions are the focus of quality measures, we also included readmissions measured over 3 to 6 months because these are common, costly, and potentially preventable. Forty-seven trials were included, most enrolled adults with moderate to severe heart failure and a mean age of 70 years. We found that interventions providing multiple home visits soon after hospital discharge can reduce 30-day readmission rates. Both home-visiting programs and multidisciplinary heart failure clinics visits can improve mortality and reduce all-cause readmission in the six months after hospitalization. Telephone support interventions do not appear to reduce all-cause readmission, but can improve survival and reduce readmission related to heart failure. Programs focused on telemonitoring or providing education only did not appear to reduce readmission or improve survival. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, JAMA, Yale / 24.05.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Neel M. Butala, AB Medical student at Yale School of Medicine New Haven, Connecticut MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study? Answer: We found that patients with diabetes had a disproportionate reduction in in-hospital mortality relative to patients without diabetes over the decade from 2000 to 2010. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Health Care Systems, University of Pittsburgh / 22.01.2014

Janel Hanmer, MD, PhD University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Montefiore Hospital Pittsburgh, PA 15213MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Janel Hanmer, MD, PhD University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Montefiore Hospital Pittsburgh, PA 15213 MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Hanmer: We used the National Inpatient Sample - a sample of about 20% of US community hospitals with all discharges from those hospitals - to examine if insurance status is associated with transfer from one hospital to another. We were looking at patients who were already admitted to the hospital, not the patients who presented to the Emergency Department. We selected the five most common general medicine admissions for adults aged 18 to 64. We found that uninsured patients were less likely to be transferred than privately insured patients in four of the five conditions (about 20-40% less likely). We also found that women were less likely than men to be transferred in five of the conditions (about 35 to 40% less likely). (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Health Care Systems, JAMA, Medical Research Centers, Outcomes & Safety / 17.01.2014

Elliot Wakeam MD Center for Surgery and Public Health Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston MA 02115MedicalResearch.com Interview with Elliot Wakeam MD Center for Surgery and Public Health Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston MA 02115 MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Wakeam: Our study examined failure to rescue (FTR), or death after postoperative complications, in safety net hospitals. Prior work has shown that hospital clinical resources can improve rescue rates, however, despite having higher levels of technology and other clinical resources that should lead to better rates of patient rescue, safety net hospitals still had greater rates of death after major complications. (more…)