Conference Coverage

Sickle cell unit running 24/7 reduces readmissions, emergency visits



FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — A dedicated, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week sickle cell inpatient observation unit staffed by a multidisciplinary care team significantly reduced inpatient admissions and emergency department visits per patient, according to an analysis of a Philadelphia program.

Dr. Sanaa Rizk of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia

Dr. Sanaa Rizk

“These findings confirm the need for an individualized approach to treatment,” Sanaa Rizk, MD, director of the hereditary anemia program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, said at the annual meeting of the Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research. “The potential strength of a multidisciplinary approach and personalized interventions toward high-utilizing subpopulations may offer the greatest impact.”

The study evaluated what Dr. Rizk called “the second clinical transformation” in care of sickle cell disease patients, which Thomas Jefferson University implemented in 2015. The comprehensive sickle cell center first opened in 2003, and the first transformation in November 2013 consisted of opening a four-bed sickle cell day unit to treat uncomplicated sickle cell vaso-occlusive crises with personalized pain treatment protocols (including IV fluids and opioids). It was staffed by a nurse practitioner, medical assistant, and two registered nurses from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The second transformation transferred care to the inpatient observation unit on the hospital floor with access to 12 patient beds. A sickle cell nurse practitioner sees patients for same-day appointments, conducts sick visits, performs outreach, and handles follow-up with patients. The rest of the multidisciplinary team includes hospitalists, hematologists, internists, and a social worker who performs weekly inpatient rounds and meets monthly with ED leaders and pharmacists.

With the first transformation, ED visits per patient fell from 3.67 to 2.14 a year (P less than .001), and inpatient admissions per patient fell from 1.33 to 0.63 (P less than .0001), Dr. Rizk reported.

The second transformation reduced those per-patient rates even further, to 0.47 ED visits (P less than .01) and 0.29 inpatient admissions (P less than .001), she said.

“The expansion of the service reduced admissions and ED use significantly,” Dr. Rizk said.

She added that a subanalysis of the high-utilizer subgroup showed a decrease in average total medical charges by approximately $100,000/patient per year.

Dr. Rizk reported having no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Rizk S et al. FSCDR 2019, Abstract JSCDH-D-19-00049.

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