Objectives: Healthcare systems strive to provide quality care at lower cost. Arterial blood gas testing, chest radiographs, and RBC transfusions provide an important example of opportunities to reduce excess resource utilization within the ICU. We describe the effect of a multifaceted quality improvement program designed to decrease the avoidable arterial blood gases, chest radiographs, and RBC utilization on utilization of these resources and patient outcomes. Design: Prospective pre-post cohort study. Setting: Seven ICUs in an academic healthcare system. Patients: All adult ICU patients admitted to study ICUs during consecutive baseline (n = 7,357), intervention (n = 7,553), and follow-up (n = 7,657) years between September 2010 and August 2013. Interventions: A multifaceted quality improvement program including provider education, audit and feedback, and unit-based provider financial incentives targeting arterial blood gas, chest radiograph, and RBC utilization. Measurements and Main Results: The primary outcome was the number of orders for arterial blood gases, chest radiographs, and RBCs per patient. Compared with the baseline period, unadjusted arterial blood gas, chest radiograph, and RBC utilization in the intervention period was reduced by 42%, 26%, and 17%, respectively (p < 0.01). After adjusting for potentially relevant patient factors, the intervention was associated with 128 fewer arterial blood gases, 73 fewer chest radiographs, and 16 fewer RBCs per 100 patients (p < 0.01). This effect was durable during the follow-up year. This reduction yielded an approximate net savings of $1.5 M in direct costs over the intervention and follow-up years after accounting for the direct costs of the program. Unadjusted hospital mortality decreased from 7% in the baseline period to 5.2% in the intervention period (p < 0.01). This reduction remained significant after adjusting for patient factors (odds ratio = 0.43; p < 0.01). Conclusions: Implementation of a multifaceted quality improvement program including financial incentives was associated with significant improvements in resource utilization. Our findings provide evidence supporting the safety, effectiveness, and sustainability of incentive-based quality improvement interventions.
- evidence-based practice
- organizational efficiency
- outcome and process assessment
- physician incentive plans
- quality of health care