NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Outcomes of inpatient laparoscopic cholecystectomy in Medicare patients vary widely among hospitals, and most adverse outcomes occur well after patients have been discharged, new findings show.
While the overall adverse outcome rate was 20.7%, risk-adjusted adverse outcomes ranged from 10% in the best-performing decile of hospitals to 32.1% for the worst-performing decile, Dr. Donald E. Fry of MPA Healthcare Solutions in Chicago and colleagues found.
"These differences indicate that a significant number of readmissions and overall adverse outcomes of care after laparoscopic cholecystectomy are potentially preventable," Dr. Fry and his team state in their report, online February 1 in the Annals of Surgery.
Risk-adjusted measurement of care has typically been limited to inpatient events and 30-day mortality rates, they note, but declines in mortality rates, shorter patient stays and a shift toward ambulatory procedures have made this measurement more difficult.
"Surgery for gallbladder disease has experienced one of the most dramatic transitions from extended inpatient care to outpatient or limited inpatient care," they write.
To compare outcomes among hospitals, Dr. Fry and his team looked at Medicare data for 2010-2012 including both inpatient and 90-day post-discharge adverse outcomes for inpatient laparoscopic cholecystectomy.
They created a developmental database including more than 73,000 patients to construct predictive models for adverse outcomes, and a database of more than 83,000 patients treated at 1,570 hospitals, each with 20 or more qualifying cases and 4.5 or more predicted total adverse outcomes, to compare performance.
A total of 509 patients (0.6%) died in the hospital, 5,761 (6.9%) had prolonged length of stay, 1,154 (1.4%) died within 90 days of discharge without being readmitted, and 12,038 (14.5%) were readmitted at least once in the 90 days after discharge.
Gastrointestinal, infectious and cardiovascular events were the most common readmission causes.
"Strategies for improvement begin with hospitals and surgeons knowing what the results of their care happen to be," Dr. Fry told Reuters Health by email. "Since many readmissions and Emergency Department visits of post-discharge surgical cases occur at hospitals other than the facility of the index
hospitalization, the actual results of care may not be appreciated by the providers."
He added: "Improvement strategies need to focus on the reasons patients were readmitted. Better pain management will reduce readmissions for constipation, abdominal distention, nausea and vomiting. Increased contact by clinicians with their patients after discharge can identify early evidence of
pulmonary problems or potential urinary tract infection. Earlier recognition of evolving issues can provide interventions that avoid readmissions. Better overall strategies to avoid cardiac events and hypovolemia that may play in central nervous system events and renal failure should be of benefit."
Dr. Fry and his colleagues are now investigating whether similar differences in outcomes occur with other types of surgical procedures, as well as the frequency of and reasons for post-discharge emergency room visits.
"A final message for surgeons in this research is that Medicare has begun an initiative into bundled payments," Dr. Fry said. "Surgeons and hospitals need to establish better trackingmethods for post-discharge patients so that they know the results of care and so that they can develop focused strategies for better outcomes. There will be a substantial financial penalty for those who cannot adapt to the new payment model that CMS is implementing."