Diarrhea of other causes and Clostridioides difficile colonization are common in patients hospitalized for hematopoietic stem-cell transplants (HSCT). It has been well recognized that these issues tend to decrease the specificity of stool testing for C. difficile infection (CDI). The best way to address this problem is uncertain.
In September 2018, we initiated a project with the goal of addressing the apparent problem of overdiagnosis of CDIs in our HSCT population. Using the quality improvement tool Model for Improvement we introduced a C. difficile stool testing and CDI diagnosis algorithm with the aim of decreasing unnecessary inpatient CDI diagnoses and treatments. In this study we examine the effects of the algorithm.
We reviewed all HSCT admissions for the 2 years before the algorithm introduction and the 3 years following recording all stool submissions for C. difficile determination and CDI. At the close of the study, we recruited our advanced practice providers (APPs) to review all CDI following algorithm initiation and provide feedback on the ease of use of the algorithm and potential improvements to the overall process.
Stool submissions for C. difficile determination decreased from 38.0 to 20.6/1000 inpatient days (p=<0.001) and CDI from 5.5 to 2.4/1000 days (p=0.007). Patients admitted for a first allogeneic-HSCT, a first autologous-HSCT, or an HSCT readmission showed similar proportionate reductions. No detrimental effects on length of stay, overall survival, progression free survival, rates of readmission following transplant, incidence of acute graft vs. host disease, or incidence of recurrent CDI were noted following algorithm introduction. A strategy of education, monitoring/feedback, and ease of algorithm access proved effective in inducing provider compliance. APPs rated the algorithm high on ease of use.
Use of an algorithm defining criteria for C. difficile testing, diagnosis, and treatment was associated with significantly decreased CDI diagnoses on a HSCT inpatient unit without apparent adverse effects.

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