SHM asked leaders of the Hospital-Based Quality Improvement in Stroke Prevention for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) Project, Hiren Shah, MD, MBA, SFHM, and Andrew Masica, MD, SFHM, to provide an overview of the program.
“AF is a disease state that is highly prevalent, and the numbers are rising yearly. We also know that it is one of the most common inpatient diagnoses,” Dr. Shah says. “However, when you look at the quality of care provided to our AF patients, it is quite variable and has implications for other hospital performance metrics such as 30-day readmission rates. This makes AF a high-impact target for inpatient quality improvement initiatives.”
Dr. Shah is assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and medical director at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Dr. Masica is vice president of clinical effectiveness at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas.
The implementation guide for SHM’s AF project will be available later in December at www.hospitalmedicine.org/afib.
Question: What is the scope of your project?
Dr. Masica: That is a question we wrestled with. Numerous care processes related to AF are amenable to inpatient quality improvement. We chose to focus our efforts on stroke prevention in AF and the development of a toolkit to help hospital-based practitioners to assess stroke and bleeding risk consistently and, if indicated, to initiate antithrombotic therapy.
Dr. Shah: Along those lines, we know that at least 25% of AF-related strokes are potentially preventable with adherence to evidence-based care; however, current data indicate that only 50% to 60% of patients with AF who are eligible to receive antithrombotic therapy are on active stroke prophylaxis.
Q: Why do you think there are such large gaps in stroke prophylaxis for AF patients?
Dr. Masica: The prophylaxis decision requires the clinician to do an anticoagulation net-benefit and risk assessment, and although there are validated tools to do this type of assessment, use of these tools hasn’t yet become hardwired into daily hospital practice. Empiric clinical assessments often overestimate the bleed risk and underestimate stroke risk, so the ultimate result can be underuse of antithrombotic therapy.
“Ideally, we would like to start anticoagulation during the hospital stay or on discharge, if indicated, but even if we clearly communicate a patient’s stroke and bleed risk to the PCP on discharge, we can help ensure that this issue will be addressed on outpatient follow-up.”
Dr. Shah: Another barrier is that in many hospitals, there are not reminders in place in our workflow for this assessment to happen at all. Hospitalists may think that the anticoagulation decision is an outpatient issue, better addressed by their primary care doctor, so it is sometimes even intentionally bypassed. Another barrier is that it takes time to discuss a patient’s values and preferences in the anticoagulation decision.
Q: But isn’t stroke prevention in AF more of an outpatient issue?
Dr. Shah: We think the hospital is a great place to start this evaluation and to make the anticoagulation decision. Of course, we should discuss these issues with the primary care doctor. Ideally, we would like to start anticoagulation during the hospital stay or on discharge, if indicated, but even if we clearly communicate a patient’s stroke and bleed risk to the PCP on discharge, we can help ensure that this issue will be addressed on outpatient follow-up.
Q: What specific tools for stroke and bleed risk are you referring to?
Dr. Shah: The CHADS2 scoring system is a well-validated tool for estimating the risk of stroke in AF patients, one that most clinicians may be aware of. The CHA2DS2-VASc is a slightly more refined scoring system. When it comes to bleeding, however, fewer clinicians are aware of the HAS-BLED bleeding risk assessment method.