Trauma PI: System Issue Loop Closure (Part III)

Yesterday I discussed loop closure for peer-related issues. Today I’ll delve into loop closure for system issues.

System issues are those that tend to involve multiple patients. They are not as easy to identify, because it may take a while for you to see a problem pattern emerging. And they are definitely harder to fix because they require a multi-faceted problem solving approach.

Here’s an example: You are presenting a complication (pulmonary embolism) in your trauma morbidity and mortality (M&M) conference. One of your colleagues notes that this is the third such presentation this year, which seems to be higher than previously. And come to think of it, the number of deep venous thrombosis presentations seems to be higher as well. 

You ask your trauma registrar to run some reports on these complications, and you find that the incidence of both in your trauma patients has increased 80% over the previous year! Time to put on your thinking cap, review the literature and critically look at your care and what other centers are doing. You conclude that your trauma patient population hasn’t changed, but that your DVT surveillance and prophylaxis are spotty and vary considerably by physician.

Your solution consists of a new protocol or practice guideline that 1) identifies the risk level for each trauma patient, 2) defines what prophylactic measures will be used based on the risk assessment, and 3) determines what kind of screening will be done and how often. This protocol is implemented by your trauma operations committee, with all trauma physicians instructed to use it. It is monitored by your trauma program staff, and regular scorecards are sent to each physician. Regular reports detailing physician compliance and patient complications are made at each M&M or Trauma PI Committee meeting as well.

Six months later, registry data is reviewed again and you find that the incidence of DVT has decreased (but not to baseline because you are screening better and finding more), and the number of pulmonary emboli has dropped nearly to zero. Problem solved? Maybe. Periodic monitoring and continuation of the scorecard system is probably needed to make sure that the protocols are maintained.

What do you need to close the loop? You need a “folder” to save your information as I discussed previously. Since this problem involves many patients, it doesn’t fit as well into current registry packages that are oriented to single patient records. Whether your folder is paper or electronic, here are the items that need to be saved:

  • Minutes from the first M&M meeting where the discussion reflects the recognition of the problem
  • The registry reports that show the increasing incidence of the problem
  • The new protocol and scorecard that were developed, along with any tracking tools
  • The operations committee minutes showing approval of the protocol
  • Completed scorecards for the physicians
  • M&M minutes for meetings at which DVT/PE reports were given
  • Registry reports that show the decreased incidence of DVT/PE. You can consider the item closed at this point.
  • Any followup registry reports for monitoring done on a regular basis can be added to the folder later

As you can see, this is much more complicated than a peer issue. However, system issues show the value and strength of your trauma PI program. Trauma reviewers focus on how well you identify and address system problems because it is an indication of the maturity and power of your trauma program.

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