Elderly patients comprise a large majority of the 100,000 Americans who die every year undergoing inpatient surgery. Wide variation in mortality rates across hospitals suggests substantial opportunities for improvement. Recent research suggests that such variation is determined primarily by how successfully hospitals recognize and manage complications once they occur. Thus, minimizing "failure to rescue" (i.e., death following a major complication) may be essential in efforts to reduce surgical mortality. Unfortunately, previous research does not provide actionable insights into how hospitals can improve in this regard. A better understanding of hospital structure at the micro-system level, including details related to ICU staffing, physician coverage, and rapid response teams, is essential. Other organizational attributes-including staff morale, teamwork, communication, and attitudes toward safety-could be even more crucial in minimizing failure to rescue. To explore these issues, we propose a multi-center study involving 34 hospitals participating in the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative (MSQC), the largest population-based collaborative quality improvement program in the United States. We will first assess the presence of micro-system resources potentially related to FTR, including aspects of staffing and organization, the structure and function of rapid response teams, and training and quality improvement programs. In our second specific aim, we will evaluate safety attitudes and culture using the Safety and Teamwork Climate Survey and their associations with hospital-specific FTR rates, targeting clinical leaders and caregivers of the major units involved in the care of postoperative patients. Finally, we will assess safety-related practices and behaviors, using the Safety Organizing Scale. We hypothesize that hospitals with high FTR rates will have fewer resources and score worse with regards to safety climate, teamwork and communication. This project will have direct, population-level impact as our findings inform interventions aimed at reducing mortality in surgical patients in Michigan, and ultimately elsewhere. Results from this study will also inform large payers (including CMS) and regulators (particularly JCAHO) as they set incentives and standards for enhancing the safety of inpatient surgery in the United States.

Public Health Relevance

The elderly have markedly higher mortality after inpatient surgery not because they have more complications, but because they are 3 times more likely to die once a complication has occurred. This study will examine hospital resources, safety attitudes and behaviors underlying so-called failure to rescue after surgical complications at 34 Michigan hospitals. This project will have direct, population-level impact as our findings inform interventions aimed at reducing surgical mortality in the elderly in Michigan, and ultimately elsewhere.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-NRCS-G (08))
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Salive, Marcel
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Schools of Medicine
Ann Arbor
United States
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Sheetz, Kyle H; Krell, Robert W; Englesbe, Michael J et al. (2014) The importance of the first complication: understanding failure to rescue after emergent surgery in the elderly. J Am Coll Surg 219:365-70
Sheetz, Kyle H; Waits, Seth A; Krell, Robert W et al. (2013) Improving mortality following emergent surgery in older patients requires focus on complication rescue. Ann Surg 258:614-7; discussion 617-8