Healthcare News & Insights

New protocols lower patients’ risk of VTEs in hospitals

Venous thromboembolism (VTE), or a blood clot in a vein, is a serious complication patients develop in hospitals – and it can be deadly. Thousands of patients are harmed by VTEs each year. One health system managed to implement a process that reduced VTE rates by 22%. 

The findings were from a research study out of the University of California, San Diego, according to a Medscape article, and they were recently discussed at the Society of Hospital Medicine’s 2017 Annual Meeting.

Dignity Health, a health system based in the southwestern U.S., rolled out new protocols to its 35 hospitals that were designed to assess a patient’s risk of developing VTE right at the point of admission or transfer.

Specifically, providers were trained to use a VTE risk-assessment tool that placed patients into three categories (low, medium and high risk) depending on their chances of developing VTE. Doctors were taught to use evidence-based guidelines to assess a patient’s risk and quickly prescribe the appropriate medications, as well as implement other targeted interventions.

The new protocols were first implemented at nine pilot hospital sites. Providers were educated on best practices for prescribing medications to reduce the chance of VTE in patients via a mentoring program, and patients were checked daily to make sure their medications were correct.

Other tactics were also used, such as working to increase mobility for patients to keep their blood from clotting.

Eventually, the protocols were introduced to Dignity Health’s other hospitals, but without provider mentoring or daily patient checks at their disposal.

Despite this, the program was effective throughout the health system. In a three-year period, there were 26% fewer VTE events at the health system’s pilot sites, and 20% fewer VTEs at all the other participating hospitals. Rates decreased for both patients’ initial hospital stays and for readmissions 30 days after discharge.

Worth the effort

While many medical professionals have mixed feelings about VTE prevention programs because patients are less likely to contract them than other deadly hospital-acquired conditions, the results of the latest research show there are benefits. Dignity Health already had a relatively low rate of VTEs, but it still decreased its rates even further with these interventions.

Researchers speculate that this method was effective because doctors were trained to make quick decisions about which patients were most likely to develop VTEs during their hospital stays. Past VTE assessment tools were cumbersome, relying on multiple characteristics providers had to rank and score before assessing a patient’s risk.

Another characteristic that made this program more effective was what the researchers called “measurevention,” which refers to the ability to monitor the new protocols in real-time and immediately make any necessary changes based on the data collected.

Takeaways for hospitals

Hospitals can learn lessons from this program’s success when considering making changes designed to improve patient care, whether the goal is to reduce VTEs or lower the rates of other dangerous complications and infections.

Bottom line: The best interventions involve changes that providers can easily incorporate into their workflow and constant measurement and evaluation to monitor success in real time (which can be achieved through data analytics and other advanced tracking technologies).

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