A comprehensive quality improvement (QI) program aimed at all aspects of patient care after pituitary surgery was initiated at a single center. This initiative was guided by standard quality principles to improve patient outcomes and optimize healthcare value. The programmatic goal was to discharge most elective patients within 1 day after surgery, improve patient safety, and limit unplanned readmissions. The program is described, and its effect on patient outcomes and hospital financial performance over a 5-year period are investigated.
Details of the patient care pathway are presented. Foundational elements of the QI program include evidence-based care pathways (e.g., for hyponatremia and pain), an in-house research program designed to fortify care pathways, patient education, expectation setting, multidisciplinary team care, standard order sets, high-touch postdischarge care, outcomes auditing, and a patient navigator, among other elements. Length of stay (LOS), outcome variability, 30-day unplanned readmissions, and hospital financial performance were identified as surrogate endpoints for healthcare value for the surgical epoch. To assess the effect of these protocols, all patients undergoing elective transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary tumors and Rathke’s cleft cysts between January 2015 and December 2019 were reviewed.
A total of 609 adult patients who underwent elective surgery by experienced pituitary surgeons were identified. Patient demographics, comorbidities, and payer mix did not change significantly over the study period (p ≥ 0.10). The mean LOS was significantly shorter in 2019 versus 2015 (1.6 ± 1.0 vs 2.9 ± 2.2 midnights, p < 0.001). The percentage of patients discharged after 1 midnight was significantly higher in 2019 versus 2015 (75.4% vs 15.6%, p < 0.001). The 30-day unplanned hospital readmission rate decreased to 2.8% in 2019 from 8.3% in 2015. Per-patient hospital profit increased 71.3% ($10,613 ± $19,321 in 2015; $18,180 ± $21,930 in 2019), and the contribution margin increased 42.3% ($18,925 ± $19,236 in 2015; $26,939 ± $22,057 in 2019), while costs increased by only 3.4% ($18,829 ± $6611 in 2015; $19,469 ± $4291 in 2019).
After implementation of a comprehensive pituitary surgery QI program, patient outcomes significantly improved, outcome variability decreased, and hospital financial performance was enhanced. Future studies designed to evaluate disease remission, patient satisfaction, and how the surgeon learning curve may synergize with other quality efforts may provide additional context.