Over time, Dr. Maynard will measure the effects of the intervention to ensure it is working. In addition to creating a malleable tool kit, UCSD research hospitalists will examine race, gender, and age to determine the effects of these on the likelihood of getting adequate prophylaxis.
Hospital Patient Safe-D(ischarge)
Dr. Williams and his colleagues at Emory University and the University of Ottawa received funding for “Hospital Patient Safe-D(ischarge): A Discharge Bundle for Patients,” a program that builds on previous AHRQ funding. This intervention implements a “discharge bundle” of patient safety interventions to improve patient transition from the hospital to home or another healthcare setting.
“We hope that every patient will undergo discharge, and of course the majority do, but the discharge process has almost been treated as an afterthought,” explains Dr. Williams. “Doctors spend a lot of time on diagnosis and treatment, but not on discharge. This process of transition from total care with a call button, lots of nursing attention, daily visits from the doctor, and delivered meals to greater independence, has not been well researched.”
What little research exists tends to indicate that discharge processes are very heterogeneous.
So far, Dr. Williams’ team’s examination of the process has produced only one surprise: The team has discovered that the discharge process is even more capricious than they suspected. As patients prepare to leave the hospital, what could and should be an orderly process that educates and prepares patients to assume responsibility for their own care in a new and better way is often interrupted or disjointed.
Preparing patients for discharge once fell to the nursing staff. As nursing faces staffing shortages and expanded roles, the discharge process often belongs to everyone and to no one. That physicians’ discharge visits pay much less than the time required to do it well also complicates the problem. The researchers were not surprised, however, to learn that many patients do not know their diagnosis or treatment plan as discharge is imminent. Their goal is to develop a consistent, comprehensive discharge process that will be a national model.
Here again, the precepts of continuous quality improvement are apparent. Dr. Williams’ team’s effort represents collaboration among physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and patients; involves SHM and several other professional organizations; and calls upon an advisory committee consisting of nationally recognized patient care and safety experts.
The discharge bundle of patient safety interventions—a concept advocated by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and other quality-promoting groups—adds a post-discharge continuity check to medication reconciliation and patient-centered education at discharge.
The four project phases—implement, evaluate, develop a tool, and disseminate the discharge bundle—overlap and ensure success.
Dr. Williams believes that the group of patients most likely to benefit from this intervention is the elderly. “The elderly bear the greatest burden of chronic disease and typically have several concurrent health problems,” he says.
Educating elders at the time of discharge should decrease the medication error rate and improve adherence to other treatments and recommended lifestyle changes. To gauge the appropriateness of the discharge bundle, John Banja, PhD, an expert in communication and safety, observes the discharge process directly. All communications must be patient-centered, and thus presented in a manner that patients will understand and appreciate. Banja relies on his background in patient safety and disability/rehabilitation to assess the discharge process.
Initial enrollment in this study seems successful. More than 50 patients have consented to participate, but Banja projects a need for 200 to complete the entire process. Recently, the team increased its planned maximum accrual to 300 to increase the statistical power of their findings. The participants like the program because most of them find discharge somewhat discomforting. Patients know they have knowledge gaps and appreciate clinicians’ efforts to fill those gaps seamlessly. A small investment of time can prevent problems after discharge.