Tag Archives: performance improvement

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. 


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!

What Is: A Trauma Performance Improvement (PI) Dictionary?

An anonymous reader posted this question. Let me first start by saying that I’m happy to answer any and all questions. However, it helps if you register with Tumblr or Disqus so I can reply directly to you as well. Sometimes I’ve answered a question in a previous post but am unable to explain why I’m not answering again. So please, register or email me directly so I can reply to your query!

Trauma PI is the most important part of any trauma program or center. Not only does the program have to provide high quality care, but it has to prove that it does this on paper. A performance improvement plan is important, as this outlines the specific methods used to self-assess clinical care. An important component of the plan is the PI dictionary.

A PI dictionary is simply the list of the clinical issues that are tracked by your PI program. This includes specific audit filters used to trigger PI review, as well as the list of issues and events that are routinely scrutinized. There is a core set of items that are found at every trauma center, like deaths and significant complications. However, no two centers’ dictionaries are identical because they must include local issues and problems as well.

Your trauma center should have a well-defined dictionary of PI review issues. And this dictionary must contain a “reasonable” number of items. Too many, and you will never be able to reasonably track everything down; too few and you will miss important problems that demand investigation. 

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Trauma PI: The 7 Deadly Sins

Trauma performance improvement is the backbone of any trauma center. And it’s the most common reason that a center runs into problems or deficiencies during a site review. Today, I’ll review the seven most common problems encountered during site surveys and provide some possible solutions for them.

  1. No loop closure. Closing the loop is talked about all the time. One would think that this should never be a problem, but it is. It becomes evident to the reviewers in two ways: reviewing PI meeting minutes, and sin #2 below. This topic is complicated, so see my four part series on loop closure here.
  2. Repeat offenses. The same problem keeps coming up again and again. This usually happens because the problem was never really solved in the first place. See the link above on loop closure for the solution to this one.
  3. Superficial peer review discussions. This means that the minutes don’t reflect any in-depth discussion of PI issues. There are two possible reasons: there wasn’t any meaningful discussion, or the documentation just wasn’t that good (see point 4 below). The discussion must include a summary of the case, identification of the significant quality issues, and a description of what will be done to avoid the problem in the future and who is responsible for carrying it out. If issues are referred to other committees (trauma operations or hospital PI), then this should be stated and it should be possible to follow the PI trail in those minutes as well.
  4. Poor peer review meeting minutes. This is a carry-on from the last point. Sometimes there is robust discussion on an issue, but the minutes don’t reflect it. This occurs due to concern for discoverability by the public or outside legal counsel in some states, but most frequently happens because the person charged with documenting the minutes is not very good at it. Minutes need not mention specific names, but do need to detail the gist of any discussion, including specific points of concern and remedies. Most discussions will run several paragraphs long; a single brief one just won’t do.
  5. Poor record organization. All PI activity and documentation regarding a specific patient needs to be organized in a single location. A paper or electronic folder is recommended. A similar folder is recommended for each system issue that involves multiple patients. During a site review, be sure to include the appropriate folder of information with each of the patient charts that are inspected by reviewers. Don’t scatter your records across several file cabinets or notebooks. And make sure several people in the trauma program understand the organization system in case a key person gets sick or quits.
  6. No cooperation from other hospital services. Your trauma program sends a case to be reviewed out to another department. Two months pass and you finally notice you never received a reply. Repeat a couple of times with the same chart and at that point, no one remembers anything about the case. This is a sure-fire way to keep making the same patient care mistakes. Create the expectation of quick turnaround (2 weeks is reasonable) and start nagging when time is up. Escalate to your trauma medical director if it continues to be a problem. In more extreme cases, you may need to select another liaison to deal with, or enlist hospital administration or hospital PI to help put pressure on them from above.
  7. No cooperation between trauma program manager and trauma medical director. These two people must work very closely for the trauma PI program to function efficiently. Regular meetings (weekly) are essential so they can review and process the various items that must be addressed. The TMD must deal with any physician related items, such as counseling, verbal discussions, memos and letters. The TPM deals with items involving nursing and other personnel. Dysfunction at this level is somewhat common at Level II trauma centers and quickly drags the program down.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions below!

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Trauma Mortality: The New Nomenclature – Part 3

Time to finish up this series on trauma mortality! We discussed the two types of anticipated mortality last week, now it’s time for the final (and worst) one.

Old nomenclature: preventable death
New nomenclature: unanticipated mortality

Note the subtle difference. The old name presumes you could have done something about it, which can lead to legal issues in some cases. The new one implies that death was unexpected, but does not presume that it could have been prevented. A good example would be a trauma patient who suddenly dies from a massive PE, despite DVT prophylaxis done according to the book.

Any unanticipated mortality should launch a full investigation from the trauma performance improvement program. In some cases, hospital PI may get involved. A root cause analysis may be indicated, depending on how many factors are involved. These cases must be discussed by the multidisciplinary trauma PI committee. It’s essential that everyone involved do their homework and become familiar with every aspect of care so that a meaningful analysis can occur at the meeting.

Trauma center reviewers will expect to see detailed documentation of the analysis in the PI committee minutes. And unless the death was a complete and nonpreventable surprise there should be new protocols, policies and practice changes apparent. If these are not present, expect major reverification issues for your trauma center.

Is there an appropriate ratio of the three types of mortality? Obviously, there is a fair amount of variability. But after years of doing reviews, I can offer some guidelines. Here’s my 100:10:1 rule of thumb:

  • 100 cases – Anticipated mortality without opportunity for improvement (AMW/OOI)
  • 10 cases – Anticipated mortality with opportunity for improvement (AMWOI)
  • 0-1 case – Unanticipated mortality (UM)

If your hospital’s numbers are outliers in any group, your clinical care and performance improvement program will get extra scrutiny. If all your cases are AMW/OOI, then your PI process is too lax. This is a complex business, and there a many ways to improve our care. If your AMWOI cases are more frequent, your threshold for improvement may be set too low (see my post on this last week). If you have more than 1 or 2 UM, then there may be some serious care quality issues.

Bottom line: When reviewing trauma mortality, be realistic but brutally honest. We learn from the mistakes we make. But by adhering to the process, you should never make the same mistake twice.

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Trauma Mortality: The New Nomenclature – Part 2

Yesterday I tried to clarify the most commonly assigned type of trauma mortality, anticipated mortality without opportunity for improvement (AMW/OOI). Today, I’ll cover another, and I’ll finish the series on Monday.

Old nomenclature: potentially preventable death
New nomenclature: anticipated mortality with opportunity for improvement (AMWOI)

Again, these sound somewhat similar but they are quite different. Potentially preventable death used to be applied to patients who had obvious care issues that had some potential to change outcome. But it also contained a number of patients discussed yesterday who had support withdrawn due to age or degree of injury. There was some nagging doubt that, it something else had been done, maybe they would have recovered. So several of the “potentially preventable” deaths in the old category have been moved to the “without opportunity for improvement” category.

Unfortunately, a larger group of patients from the nonpreventable death category have moved into the “with opportunity for improvement” category. This is actually a good thing, though. The AMWOI category looks at whether there were any care issues, regardless of whether support was eventually withdrawn.

Whereas the vast majority of deaths at any center should fall into the AMW/OOI category, a modest number will be classified as AMWOI. The actual number depends on how broadly or narrowly an opportunity for improvement is defined. If you consider a few areas of missing documentation on the trauma flow sheet an opportunity for improvement, then you’ll have a lot of deaths classified this way. Concentrate on issues that might have actually had an impact on the outcome. The key is to develop a set of criteria that is realistic and that work for you. If the number of AMWOI deaths seems high, go back and look at those criteria and adjust them. You can still work out a system for improving trauma flow documentation without it changing every death in a trauma activation to one with an opportunity for improvement.

Monday, I’ll finish up with a few words on unanticipated mortality.

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