Tag Archives: performance improvement

Value Of The “Delay To Operating Room” Trauma PI Filter: Part 2

Yesterday, I discussed a paper that tried to show that the “delay to OR” trauma performance improvement (PI) filter was not cost effective. As I mentioned, I’m dubious that the outcomes and information reviewed could realistically demonstrate this.

Today, I’m going to list the parts of the system that this PI filter helps to monitor:

  • Was the patient appropriately triaged as a trauma activation?
  • Was the trauma surgeon called / involved in a timely manner?
  • Was an appropriate physical exam carried out?
  • If needed, was the CT scanner accessible?
  • Did the surgeon make an appropriate clinical decision?
  • If needed, did the backup trauma surgeon arrive in a timely manner?
  • Were there any transport delays to the OR?
  • Was an OR room promptly available?
  • Did the OR backup team arrive within the required time, if needed?
  • Were anesthesia services promptly available?
  • If a failure of nonoperative management occurred:
    • Was the practice guideline followed?
    • Were repeat vitals and physical exam performed and documented?
    • Did any of the other issues listed above occur?

And you may be able to think of even more!

Bottom line: As you can see, this seemingly innocuous filter tests many components within the trauma center. And even if one particular patient who triggers the “delay to OR” filter is lucky enough to escape unharmed, many of the areas listed above can harm other patients who may not trigger it. Actively looking for these issues and fixing them makes your entire trauma program better!

Related post:

Value Of The “Delay to Operating Room” Trauma PI Filter: Part 1

This post is a little longer than usual. However, if you have any interest in trauma PI, I recommend you read it through to the very end.

I’ve written a lot about trauma performance improvement (PI) over the years. As many of you know, good PI is complicated yet necessary to run a trauma center that provides optimal care. There are many areas of trauma care that are scrutinized by the PI program on a daily basis. Some of those items are termed “audit filters”, and consist of specific action criteria. If not met, the filter is triggered and the PI program must investigate it.

One of those time-honored filters is “delay to operating room.” Actually, there are two parts to it. One is “trauma laparotomy > 4 hours after patient arrival.” And the other is “trauma laparotomy > 1 hour after patient arrival if hypotensive.”

A paper was recently published questioning the value of the first filter. The contention is that it takes time and money for someone (trauma registrar, nurses, or APPs) to recognize and record the violation, and more time for the trauma program manager, trauma medical director, and Trauma PI Committee to analyze and discuss.

The authors were concerned that this time and money may be mis-spent if the filter violation doesn’t have any real impact on clinical care and outcomes. They looked at 9 years of registry and PI data on initial trauma laparotomies (not reoperations) at their Level I center. They specifically compared the incidence of mortality, complications, and identification of opportunities for improvement in the PI program.

Here are the factoids:

  • 472 patients underwent primary trauma laparotomy during the study, and 23% were flagged as delay to OR (!)
  • There was no difference in mortality or complications between delayed and non-delayed patients
  • There was a trend toward longer hospital length of stay in the delay group (p=0.05)
  • Transfer to a higher level of care was significantly higher (7%) in the delayed patients vs non-delayed (2%).  The authors do not explain this further, although it usually means an unanticipated transfer from ward to ICU.
  • Other audit filters were triggered significantly more often in the delay group, including failed nonoperative management of spleen or liver, delay in diagnosis, and delay in presentation
  • There were significant differences in which surgeons experienced delay to OR, although the incidence of complications was not different

Bottom line: The authors interpret this information one way, and state their belief that these types of filters may no longer be relevant at well-established trauma centers. However, I disagree!

Here is my rationale:

  • The study assumes that deaths, complications, and the presence of identified opportunities for improvement are sensitive enough outcomes. They are not. Hospital length of stay is the only measure that the authors examined that might be related, and it was very close to being significantly higher. And in this day and age of team care, it’s very difficult to say exactly who or what did or did not produce a complication.
  • It also assumes that the adverse outcome would only occur to the involved patient. What if an OR scheduling problem occurred in the audited case, but the patient’s injuries were not severe enough that there was any impact? But the next patient was more severely injured, and the same type of OR scheduling delay occurred. And in this case, significant and severe complications occurred even though they made it into the room in 3 hours and 45 minutes. System problems can hurt other patients, too!
  • The entire study is based on the assumption that the trauma center’s trauma PI program was very effective during the study period. Yet a delay to OR occurred in nearly a quarter of all cases. This is higher than most other centers. It is notoriously difficult to get a sense of how strong the PI program is, other than via verification visits.
  • It also suggests that some practice guidelines either need to be implemented or updated. The “delay to OR” filter was associated with other audit filter violations, especially with failure in nonop management of solid organs and diagnosis delay. Was the approach to liver/spleen management and diagnostic imaging consistent and effective?
  • The differences in delay to OR among the surgeons (range 12-38%) is also unusual. These high and variable numbers suggest the need for further analysis of their cases and performance.

This illustrates my request that you always read the paper, not just the title and conclusion, and think hard about it. I believe that the authors have shown that use of this PI audit filter didn’t make a difference in the outcomes they measured. However, I don’t think they looked at all the right ones. 

My experience has been that this filter is extremely valuable in identifying and fixing system problems. Tomorrow, I’ll provide a list of (nearly) everything that it can measure, and add a few more comments. Click here to read it.

Related posts:

Reference: “Delay to operating room: fails to identify adverse outcomes at a Level I trauma center. J Trauma 82(2):334-337, 2017.

Timed PI Audit Filters: When Does The Clock Start?

This is a question that comes up frequently in trauma performance improvement programs. Several of the performance improvement (PI) audit filters typically used at trauma centers include a time parameter. Some of these include:

  • Craniotomy > 4 hrs
  • Laparotomy > 4 hrs
  • OR for open fracture > 8 hrs (although this is now outdated)
  • OR for compartment syndrome > 2 hrs

The question that needs to be asked is: 2 or 4 or 8 hours after what?

There are several possible points at which to start the clock:

  • Time of the scene of the traumatic event
  • Recognition at an outside hospital (for referred patients)
  • Arrival in your  ED
  • When the diagnosis is made in your ED
  • When the decision to operate occurs

The answer is certainly open to interpretation. 

Here is my opinion on it:

The purpose of a PI filter is to measure system performance. There are a myriad of system problems that can delay taking a patient to the OR. These include care delays in the ED, delays in getting or interpreting diagnostic tests, delays in contact or response for consultants, delays in diagnosis, delays in OR scheduling or availability, and more. Does it make sense to limit the evaluation of your system by setting one of the later decision points as your start time?

Bottom line: I recommend starting the audit filter clock at the time of patient arrival in your ED. This enables the PI program to evaluate every system in your hospital that can possibly enable or impede your patient’s progress to the OR. However, if the issue was recognized at an outside hospital, scrutiny of their processes also needs to occur. Their trauma PI coordinator needs to know so they can make sure the transfer to definitive care occurred as quickly as possible. 

Autopsy Reports and Performance Improvement

Autopsy reports have traditionally been used as part of the trauma performance improvement (PI) process. They are typically a tool to help determine preventability of death in cases where the etiology is not clear. Deaths that occur immediately prior to arrival or in the ED are typically those in which most questions arise.

The American College of Surgeons Trauma Verification Program includes a question on what percentage of deaths at a trauma center undergo autopsy. Low numbers are usually discussed further, and strategies for improving them are considered. But are autopsies really that helpful?

A total of 434 trauma fatalities in one state over a one year period were reviewed by a multidisciplinary committee and preventability of death was determined. Changes in preventability and diagnosis were noted after autopsy results were available. 

Here are the factoids:

  • The autopsy rate was 83% for prehospital deaths and 37% for in-hospital deaths 
  • Only 69% were complete autopsies; the remainder were limited internal or external only exams
  • Addition of autopsy information changed the preventability determination in 2 prehospital deaths and 1 in-hospital death (1%)
  • In contrast to this number, it changed the cause of death in about 40% of cases, mostly in the prehospital deaths

Bottom line: From a purely performance improvement standpoint, autopsy does not appear to add much to determining preventability of death. It may modify the cause of death, which could be of interest to law enforcement personnel. And it may modify some of the diagnoses recorded in the trauma registry. I would still recommend obtaining the reports for their educational value, especially for those of you who are part of residency training programs.

Related post:

Reference: Dead men tell no tales: analysis of the utility of autopsy reports in trauma system performance improvement activities. J Trauma 73(3): 587-590, 2012.

Help Your PI Meetings Run Smoothly

Multidisciplinary Trauma PI Committee is an essential part of all trauma centers verified by the American College of Surgeons. A lot happens in that one hour (or so) meeting. But efficiency hinges on being prepared, and we’ve all experienced meetings where the case presentations just weren’t crisp. 

What to do? Here’s a set of guidelines to help your presenters do the best job possible. They rely on advance preparation and good communication with your trauma program. 

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Download a pdf copy of the guidelines here

And please comment with your own twists and turns on making trauma PI an efficient and meaningful process!

Thanks and a hat tip to Mary Carr MD for suggesting these guidelines!