The patient care domains selected as a focus for the safe practice implementation tools for the care transition process are:
- Medication reconciliation; and
- Functional status.
Communication tools will be developed for primary care physicians, patients, and their support systems so that important clinical information is transmitted during the discharge process. The implementation tools designed for medication reconciliation will be employed by physicians, care managers, or pharmacists in the hospital. Transmitting the medication regimen is widely recognized as an error-prone element of care. These specific implementation tools will include a method to review and verify any dose/frequency changes of medications that the patient was taking upon admission, as well as those that were added or discontinued during the inpatient episode. Because patient functional status is a critical issue in discharge planning, detailed tools will also be created to standardize content for risk assessment and evaluation of the types of assistance needed for patients to resume activities of daily living.
The demonstration project will also utilize specific metrics to measure patient outcomes as well as the effect that these safe practices have on the discharge and care transition processes. The three study sites will measure referring physician satisfaction with the adequacy of post-hospitalization follow-up information, the accuracy of medication reconciliation, readmission rates, and patient understanding of their treatment plan and medication regimen.
QI Requires Expert Change Management
Hospitalists recognize that the challenge of patient safety is linked to the challenge of organizational change. Patient safety initiatives can succeed only to the extent to which healthcare organizations recognize the need for and develop the means to implement the organizational changes. According to the AHRQ, systemwide improvements in patient safety are possible only if there are coordinated changes in multiple components—clinical procedures, attitudes and behaviors of care providers, incentive systems, coordination structures and processes, patterns of interactions among care providers, and organizational culture.
Senior leadership must play an active role in establishing patient safety as a priority, and staff involved directly in providing care must actively participate in implementing change. The likelihood of successful implementation of even simple change requires multiple tactics or many bullets directed at the same target. Additionally, it is critical to redesign the roles of healthcare workers at the point of care to accommodate the necessary changes and to retrain them to fulfill these roles.
Hospitalists Prepare to Lead
Identifying the facilitating factors and barriers to improvement is essential to effect change because it helps ensure success. It’s also crucial to match the patient safety goals with the change strategies and tactics. Otherwise, mismatches can lead to unintended consequences that will hinder continuous improvements such as employee skepticism, frustration of safety champions, and mislearning or unnecessary ”workarounds“ by staff.
SHM sees this QI Demonstration Project as critical to assisting institutions in the design, implementation, and evaluation of QI programs and systemwide interventions with effectiveness and value. These findings should equip hospitalists with vital tools necessary to provide essential leadership in meeting their institution’s quality and patient safety goals. TH
Writer Kathleen Frampton is based in Columbia, Md