Important limitations associated with current approaches for monitoring the quality of surgical care include: (a) the retrospective and episodic (e.g.: quarterly, bi-annually, etc.) approach to feedback which creates a time lag between when performance is declining and when the hospital is made aware; (b) small clusters of clinically meaningful poor performance may go of undetected using current episodic analytic structures; (c) most healthcare entities are willing to accept average performance, but will respond if performance starts to fall below an acceptable threshold. As such, alternative approaches that could shorten the time lag for feedback, improve the detection of hospitals with potentially suboptimal perioperative care processes, or inspire hospitals to be more proactive in programmatic improvement could enhance current quality improvement efforts and have tangible benefits for VHA. The overall goal of this proposal is to generate comparative effectiveness data on novel, alternative approaches for monitoring VA hospital surgical performance relative to the current standard of episodic data analysis and feedback.
The specific aims are to: (1) compare the CUSUM (a statistical process control methodology borrowed from industry) to the episodic Observed-to-Expected approach for evaluating surgical performance at VA hospitals; (2) evaluate a composite outcome of 30-day mortality, major morbidity, and reoperation as an indicator of declining institutional performance relative to 30-day mortality or overall morbidity alone. This work will involve a hospital-level, observational design using VA Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP) data for patients who underwent inpatient general, vascular, thoracic, genitourinary, orthopedic, spine, or neurosurgical operations between 2010 and 2016. Data will be used to conduct a comparative effectiveness analysis of these alternative QI strategies for monitoring VA hospital surgical performance relative to the current standard of episodic reporting of 30-day mortality or morbidity individually. This project is novel because it will be the first application of industrial quality control techniques to VASQIP, will provide important real-world comparative data on alternative approaches for evaluating hospital performance, and will evaluate such approaches within the context of the existing VASQIP framework and infrastructure to facilitate future prospective evaluation and eventual implementation. It is anticipated the analyses will demonstrate these alternative approaches could have significant value for hospitals' local quality improvement efforts. Incorporating additional approaches for monitoring surgical outcomes into VASQIP could have notable benefits for VHA and Veterans through earlier recognition of hospitals with potentially problematic perioperative care processes that are associated with suboptimal post- operative outcomes, decreased costs for correcting errant care processes, decreased rates of morbidity through the earlier identification and resolution of such errant processes, and the public perception that the VA remains a national leader in surgical quality. Given the VHA's current focus on ensuring quality care at all levels and in all care settings, it is feasible such alternative approaches could also influence existing quality improvement programs or new initiatives outside of surgery as well.
Contemporary approaches for monitoring the quality of surgical care are based on the retrospective evaluation of data at specified time points (e.g.: quarterly, etc). This puts hospitals and local quality improvement (QI) teams at a significant disadvantage because responses to data indicating declining performance can only be reactive. Alternative approaches, such as the cumulative sum (CUSUM) or composite outcomes, could provide an earlier signal of declining performance, allow for more timely recognition of potentially problematic perioperative care processes, and therefore create opportunities for hospitals' local QI teams to take a more proactive approach to performance monitoring and program improvement. This proposal involves a comparative effectiveness evaluation of such alternative strategies for the earlier identification of hospitals with outlier performance and will be used to inform a future prospective evaluation within the VHA's surgical QI framework and infrastructure.