AUSTIN, TEX. – A quality improvement initiative aimed at patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has reduced emergency department visits and hospitalizations by 20% or more and slashed opioid use by half, according to study results presented at the annual congress of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and the American Gastroenterological Association
After 15 months, the quality improvement program saw emergency department visit rates decline from 18% to 14%, a 22% relative decrease,, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, said. Additionally, the study documented a similar decrease in the rate of hospitalization, declining from 14% to 11%, while opioid utilization rates declined from 8% to 4%. “We also found decreases in special-cause variation in other measures of interest, including CT scan utilization as well as corticosteroid use, which was reduced 29% during the course of the program,” he said.
The quality initiative was conducted through the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation as an outgrowth of its IBD Qorus quality improvement program. The 15-month study involved 20,392 patient visits at 15 academic and 11 private/community practices from January 2018 to April 2019. “This specific project within Qorus is focused specifically around the concept of improving access during times of urgent care need,” Dr. Melmed told this news organization. The goal was to identify practice changes that can drive improvement.
The intervention consisted of 19 different strategies, called a “Change Package,” and participating sites could choose to test and implement one or more of them, Dr. Melmed said. Some examples included designating urgent care slots in the clinic schedule, installing a nurse hotline, a weekly “huddle” to review high-risk patients, and patient education on using urgent care.
One of the drivers of the program was to provide immediate care improvement to patients, Dr. Melmed said in the interview. “As opposed to investments into the cure of IBD that we need, but which can take years to develop, this research has immediate, practical applicability for patients today,” he said.
“The fact that we were able to demonstrate reduction in emergency room utilization and hospitalization, steroid use, and narcotic use has really energized the work that we were doing. We can now show that very-low-cost process changes at a site level lead to robust improvement in patient outcomes. These changes are potentially implementable in any practice setting,” Dr. Melmed said in the interview.
After Dr. Melmed’s presentation, Maria T. Abreu, MD, director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Center at the University of Miami, asked about the cost of the interventions. Dr. Melmed said the costs were nominal, such as paying for a new phone line for a patient hotline. “But overall the cost really involved in the program was the time that it took to review the high-risk list on a weekly basis with the team, and that is essentially a 15-minute huddle,” he said.
Later, Dr. Abreu said in an interview that the program was “a terrific example of how measuring outcomes and sharing ideas can make huge impacts in the lives of patients.” She added, “An enormous amount of money is spent on clinical trials of expensive biologics which have revolutionized treatment, yet the humanistic aspects of our care have just as great of an impact. In this study, each center focused on ways they could lower ER visits and hospitalizations. One size did not fit all, yet they could learn from each other. The very platform they used to conduct the study is a model for all of us.”
Another feature of the quality initiative allowed participating sites to see how they compared with others anonymously, Dr. Melmed said. “Using the data, we called out high-performing sites to teach the rest of us what they were doing that enabled them to improve, so that all of us could learn from their successes,” he said.
The researchers are aiming to evaluate costs and identify the most successful interventions, with the plan to present the latter at Digestive Disease Week and use them to develop a toolkit practices can use. “Ultimately,” said Dr. Melmed, “this is scalable.”
Dr. Melmed disclosed financial relationships with AbbVie, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Celgene, Jannsen, GSK, Medtronic, Pfizer, Samsung Bioepis, Takeda, and Techlab; IBD Qorus receives support from Abbvie, AMAG, Helmsley Charitable Trust, Janssen, Nephoroceuticals, Pfizer, Takeda, and UCB.
SOURCE: Melmed GT et al. Crohn’s & Colitis Congress 2020, .