A Plan for Better Heart-Patient Care

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that a uniform method to treat lower-risk cardiac surgery patients can improve outcomes, reduce time in the hospital and lower patient cost by 15 percent.

The study was published in the journal Health Affairs.

Despite their findings, researchers didn’t discount a remaining need for care that doesn’t necessarily adhere to their model.

 “In the high-acuity, full-service hospital, individual clinical judgment remains key, and some medical care demands this,” says David Cook, M.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and primary author of the study. “But if this philosophy is applied universally, the same medical problem could be approached in 10 different ways by 10 different physicians, leading to unwarranted variability in costs, quality and outcomes.”

Researchers initiated a “practice redesign effort” that would set clear expectations for the care of low-risk cardiac surgery patients. The effort was also aimed at reducing overall costs and improving patients’ outcomes.

The key elements of the plan include:

*Dividing patients into lower and higher complexity cases

*Empowering non-physicians to make bedside decision

*Electronic health tools to help delegation of care

 Cook said that 67 percent of patients surveyed by the researchers said they would be agreeable to the new model “that achieved a high degree of predictability.”

“For patients and families, uncertainty is a significant burden,” Cook added. “Now, we’ve made care predictable enough so that we can tell patients and families what they can expect, and this is tremendously important.”

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