Background: Hematology/Oncology patients represent a complex population that requires timely follow- up to prevent clinical decompensation and delays in treatment. Previous reports have demonstrated that follow-up within 14 days is associated with decreased 30-day readmissions, and the magnitude of this impact is greater in higher risk patients. This project was designed to standardize the discharge process with the primary goal to reduce average time to hematology/oncology follow-up to 14 days.
Methods: Using Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) quality improvement methodology, a multidisciplinary team of hematology/oncology staff developed and implemented a standardized discharge process. Rotating resident physicians were trained through online and inperson orientation. Additional interventions included the development of a discharge checklist handout and clinical decision support tool including a note template and embedded order set. All patients discharged during the two-month period prior to and discharged after the implementation of the standardized process were reviewed. Patients who followed with hematology/oncology at another facility, enrolled in hospice, or died during admission were excluded. Follow-up appointment scheduling data and communication between inpatient and outpatient providers were reviewed. Data was analyzed using XmR statistical process control chart and Fisher’s Exact Test using GraphPad.
Results: One hundred forty-two consecutive patients were reviewed between May - August 2018 and January - April 2019. The primary endpoint of time to hematology/ oncology follow up appointment improved from a baseline average of 17 days prior to intervention to 13 days in PDSA cycles 1 and 2 and 10 days in PDSA cycle 3. The target of 14 day average time to follow up was achieved. Furthermore, the upper control limit decreased from 58 days at baseline to 21 days in PDSA cycle 3 suggesting a decrease in variation. Outpatient hematology/oncology provider co-signature to discharge summary increased from 20% to 54% after intervention (P=0.01).
Conclusion: Our quality initiative to standardize the discharge process for the hematology & oncology service decreased time to hematology/oncology follow up appointment, improved communication between inpatient and outpatient teams, and decreased process variation. Timelier follow-up for this complex patient population will prevent clinical decompensation and delays in treatment.