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Ulcerative Colitis Treatments: Comparing Mortality

Ulcerative Colitis Treatments: Comparing Mortality

According to data from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects up to 700,000 Americans. Current medications that are used for UC—which often include corticosteroids or long-term immunosuppressant therapy—do not lead to remission for all patients, and relapse rates are high even among those who achieve remission using medical therapies. “While medical therapy is generally safe for people with UC, only about one-third of patients experience a long-term response to medications,” explains Meenakshi Bewtra, MD, MPH, PhD. Patients also must endure a trial-and-error approach until they find a medication that works for them, which can severely impact quality of life (QOL). In addition, some UC medications come with higher risks of serious side effects. As an alternative to medical therapy, patients with UC can undergo elective colectomy, a surgery which involves performing a total proctocolectomy with ileostomy and, in many cases, restorative ileal pouch anal anastomosis. “Surgery has always been an option for patients with UC, but it is often viewed as a last resort,” says Dr. Bewtra. Research shows that elective colectomy is associated with low morbidity and mortality, but it may also alter patients’ QOL following the procedure.   Assessing Survival QOL, morbidity, and mortality are important factors that drive treatment decisions for patients with UC and their physicians. Dr. Bewtra and colleagues had a retrospective study published in Annals of Internal Medicine that looked at whether or not patients with advanced UC had better survival by undergoing elective colectomy or by being treated with medical therapy. “It’s important to clarify if elective surgery for UC can...
Surgical Readmissions and Quality of Care

Surgical Readmissions and Quality of Care

Throughout the United States, reducing the rates of hospital readmissions has become a top priority, as evidenced by CMS planning to include surgical procedures in the expansion of the penalty program. “The hospital readmissions reduction program is predicated on the notion that decreasing the frequency with which patients return to hospitals can improve care and lower costs,” says Thomas C. Tsai, MD, MPH. “However, using medical readmission rates as a measure of hospital quality has been controversial.” Hospitals vary substantially in their medical readmission rates, but these data generally do not correlate with the measures that are often used to identify high-quality hospitals, such as mortality. This raises the question of whether or not medical readmission rates actually measure hospital quality or if they instead reflect other factors that are unrelated to hospital care. The relationship between readmission rates and surgical care may be different than that of medical readmissions. Most patients undergo non-urgent major surgery when they’re clinically stable. As a result, surgical readmissions are more likely to result from complications of care received during index hospitalizations. “Clinicians have relatively little information on the types of hospitals that perform well or poorly with regard to surgical readmission rates,” says Dr. Tsai, “but we hypothesized that hospitals excelling in surgical care would generally have fewer readmissions.” A Comprehensive Analysis In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Tsai and colleagues sought to determine the patterns of surgical readmissions among Medicare patients across a set of major procedures in a national sample of hospitals. The study team combined information from Medicare claims, the American Hospital Association...
Reducing Readmissions in Community-Acquired Pneumonia

Reducing Readmissions in Community-Acquired Pneumonia

In the United States, community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality due to infection and most often strikes the elderly and individuals with comorbidities. The 30-day mortality rate for Medicare patients admitted to the hospital for CAP is about 12% and has not changed significantly in decades (Table 1). CAP has been shown to increase long-term mortality to as high as 40% within 1 year of admission. The infection is one of seven conditions that account for nearly 30% of potentially preventable readmissions in the 15-day window after initial hospital discharge. Estimates show that the cost of treating CAP exceeds $17 billion per year. Hospitalizing Patients With Community-Acquired Pneumonia “The decision on whether or not hospitalization is necessary for CAP is critical because there are multiple consequences,” says Thomas M. File, Jr., MD, MSc. “Hospitalizations can influence the cost of care, the intensity of diagnostic testing, and the selection of antimicrobial agents.” There are several advantages to outpatient treatment of CAP—when used appropriately—including cost, patient preference, faster convalescence, and fewer nosocomial complications. Hospitalization decisions should be based on several factors, including (among others): age over 50; significant underlying coexisting conditions; elevated blood urea nitrogen levels; and the presence of altered mental status or significant abnormalities in vital signs. “Readmission for CAP patients recently discharged after hospitalization represents an important, expensive, and often preventable adverse outcome,” Dr. File says. “The risk of readmission can be modified by the quality and type of care that is provided. Improving CAP readmission rates is the joint responsibility of hospitals and clinicians.” He adds that measuring readmission rates can help...
How ED Crowding Affects Outcomes

How ED Crowding Affects Outcomes

Previous studies have sought to establish a definitive relationship between ED crowding and subsequent mortality, but these investigations often have shortcomings, such as small hospital samples and a lack of adjustment for comorbidities, primary illness diagnoses, and potential hospital-level confounders. In addition, many of these analyses restrict data to specific subgroups, such as patients with acute myocardial infarction, trauma, pneumonia, or critical illness. New Evidence on Inpatient Death In an effort to address these limitations, my colleagues and I conducted a study to assess the effect of ED crowding on patient outcomes. Our study, which was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, looked at nearly 1 million admissions through EDs across California. Daily ambulance diversion was the measure of ED crowding. According to our results, ED crowding was associated with 5% greater odds of inpatient death. Patients who were admitted on days with high ED crowding had 0.8% longer hospital stays and 1.0% increased costs per admission. Periods of high ED crowding were associated with 300 excess inpatient deaths, 6,200 hospital days, and $17 million in costs. These findings persisted after extensively adjusting for patient demographics, comorbidities, and primary discharge diagnosis. Although other analyses have reported similar associations, our study generalizes these findings to a larger sample of hospitals and unselected admissions from the ED. ED Crowding: A Marker of Poor Quality Care Our findings support the notion that ED crowding is a marker of poor quality of care. Unfortunately, factors underlying the issue of ED crowding are likely to become worse. As Americans are living longer than ever, this has increased the volume, complexity, and acuity of...
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