It’s very unusual for hospitalists to achieve top quartile performance on the Physician Communication domain of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey. This is the story of a group that did just that for patients on one unit of a large hospital.
I’m not sure how reproducible this would be at other hospitals, or even on other units in the same hospital, and wonder whether performance will stay at this remarkably high level much longer than the current 5-month track record of success. Even so, five months of success suggests they’re on to something.
There is another hospitalist group at that hospital, but I’m discussing work done only by MedOne hospitalists, who together with hospital personnel, developed what they call the Comprehensive Medical Unit (CMU). Their goal was to involve multiple disciplines and use Lean principles to design a new approach to care on 5-Orange, a 20-bed unit in OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus. The CMU model went live in October 2016.
MedOne Hospital Physicians is a private hospitalist group of 35 physicians and 12 advanced practice clinicians, which comprise nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs), constituting 46 full-time–equivalent clinical staffing. The group contracts with Riverside, which has approximately 710 staffed beds. MedOne also works in area skilled nursing facilities, helps a long-term acute care and rehabilitation hospital, and provides support to two other hospitals that are not part of OhioHealth.
Features of the model
At its core, this model is a variation of the increasingly common combination of geographically assigned hospitalists (who in this case don’t have patients elsewhere in the hospital) and multidisciplinary rounds (that is, the physician and NP hospitalists make bedside rounds with a nurse and pharmacist). But their model also incorporates a few less-common features.
Only 4 of the 35 MedOne hospitalists are eligible to provide care on the CMU, and each still spends a significant portion of time in the regular hospitalist rotation working in the rest of the hospital. These doctors weren’t selected as the highest performers or because they had the best patient satisfaction track record. Instead, five MedOne doctors volunteered to work on the unit, and four were chosen. A MedOne hospitalist NP also works on the unit, since any NP in the group is eligible to work there.
This is a hospitalist-only unit; no non–hospitalist patients are placed on the unit. There is no deliberate attempt to assign patients to the unit based on how sick they are or complicated their cases are. All are general medicine patients, including up to six intermediate care patients (e.g., “ICU step-down” patients requiring mask ventilation, etc.). While configured for 20 patients, the unit can flex to as many as 24 patients and has done so numerous times. The hospitalists (physician and NP combined) have averaged 18.9 daily encounters since the CMU opened.
Nurse staffing on the unit was reconfigured to comprise bedside nurses – known as Clinical Nurses (CNs) – and more experienced RNs – in the role of Comprehensive Charge Nurses (CCNs), who attend rounds and coordinate the patients’ hospitalizations rather than doing bedside care. 5-Orange has one more Charge Nurse than is typical for other units in the hospital, so total RN-to-patient staffing levels and nurse staffing costs are higher. But the CNs care for the same number of patients as do their counterparts in other hospital units.
In order to try to discharge patients early in the day, the NP sees only the patients who are being discharged, while the physician makes all other visits. When possible, I think it’s best to minimize the incidence of a provider’s first visit with a patient being a discharge visit; this may increase the risk of misunderstandings and errors. Instead, in this model, the physician working on the CMU will already know the patient from the preceding days and will be on the unit and readily accessible to the NP all day, which might mitigate some of these concerns.
I think the most notable outcome is the top quartile patient satisfaction scores from the 37 patients cared for on the unit who returned a survey, some of whom have asked to return to the CMU if they’re hospitalized again. Specifically, 86% of responses were “top box,” which places the hospitalists at the 84th percentile of performance for all hospitals. Physician Communicationon the HCAHPS survey for hospitalists on other units at this hospital are in the bottom deciles, which is more typical for hospitalists.
Length of stay is half a day shorter than comparable units with similar readmission rates, and more patients are discharged earlier in the day. The four hospitalists who work on the unit report higher satisfaction, in part because they get an average of only 1 page a day – compared with the typical 15-40 pages their colleagues get working elsewhere in the hospital.