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Cost Reductions Associated with a Quality Improvement Initiative for Patients with ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction

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Background: Efforts to reduce door-to-balloon (DTB) times for patients presenting with an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) are widespread. Reductions in DTB times have been shown to reduce short-term mortality and decrease inpatient length of stay (LOS) in these high–risk patients. However, there is a limited literature examining the effect that these quality improvement (QI) initiatives have on patient care costs.

Methods: A STEMI QI program (Cardiac Alert Team [CAT]) initiative was instituted in July 2006 at a single tertiary care medical center located in central Massachusetts. Information was collected on cost data and selected clinical outcomes for consecutively admitted patients with a STEMI. Differences in adjusted hospital costs were compared in three cohorts of patients hospitalized with a STEMI: one before the CAT initiative began (January 2005–June 2006) and two after (October 1, 2007–September 30, 2009, and October 1, 2009–September 30, 2011).

Results: Before the CAT initiative, the average direct inpatient costs related to the care of these patients was $14,634, which decreased to $13,308 (−9.1%) and $13,567 (−7.3%) in the two sequential periods of the study after the CAT initiative was well established. Mean DTB times were 91 minutes before the CAT initiative and were reduced to 55 and 61 minutes in the follow-up periods (p < .001). There was a nonsignificant reduction in LOS from 4.4 days pre-CAT to 3.6 days in both of the post-CAT periods (p = .11).

Conclusions: A QI program aimed at reducing DTB times for patients with a STEMI also led to a significant reduction in inpatient care costs. The greatest reduction in costs was related to cardiac catheterization, which was not expected and was likely a result of standardization of care and identification of practice inefficiencies.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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