New research from Mayo Clinic shows that implementing a uniform method to care for lower-risk cardiac surgical patients improves outcomes, reduces patients’ time in the hospital and lowers overall per patient costs by 15 percent.

In 2009, practice leaders at Mayo Clinic initiated a practice redesign effort targeted at lower-risk cardiovascular surgical patients that would set clear expectations for their hospital care, improve patients’ experiences and outcomes, and reduce overall costs. The group used stakeholder analysis, practice analysis and management tools such as Lean and Six Sigma to design the new model of care.

Key elements of the model included:

* Stratification of the patient population into lower and higher complexity to identify which patients could be cared for using the standardized model

* New workflow paths that empowered non-physician care providers to make decisions at the bedside

* Co-location of patients with similar levels of acuity

* Health IT tools to support work models and care delegation

David Cook, M.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, said two-thirds of patients "would be amenable" to the new model, cautioning that it’s critical to apply the right tools, care model and work model to the right patient population. Part of the reason that protocols or best practices fail, Cook said, is that providers may not follow them if they are not applied, with forethought, to the right patient population. He also stressed that persistent leadership and phased implementation of changes are critical for such initiatives to succeed.

The study, published in the May issue of Health Affairs, can be found here.

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