Five Simple Principles for Tackling Hospital-Acquired Complications

My first epiphany at the 3M Client Experience Summit this week came ten minutes into the first client presentation I attended. Here it is: There is a simple approach to the complex issue of reducing hospital-acquired complications (HACs).

By simple I don’t mean easy, because there is plenty of hard work involved. Nor is it simplistic, because it requires smart problem-solving. Yet I can count the guiding principles on the fingers of one hand:

  1. Target complications that are unplanned, clinically relevant, and potentially preventable.
  2. Eliminate the excuse that complications are a coding problem. For each complication, check the documentation to verify the condition is documented and that the appropriate clinical intervention was followed.
  3. When there is a pattern of poor compliance with protocols, educate clinicians on the appropriate intervention and its impact.
  4. Monitor at-risk patients daily. Use process measures to verify that best practices are followed (e.g. aspirin or antibiotics administered).
  5. Monitor complication rates frequently and report to stakeholders.

I was inspired by Joe Bick, RN-BC, Associate for Clinical Intelligence at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center (Syracuse, NY). Joe explained how St. Joseph’s reduced PPC rates through a community demonstration project with the Hospital Executive Council and other Syracuse hospitals.

Over several years, St. Joseph’s tackled pneumonia, urinary tract infections, clostridium difficile colitis, decubitus ulcers, and other conditions. As they became more vigilant in following best practices and documenting compliance, they saw a reduction in complication rates and length of stay.

It is an approach any hospital can follow, given the right information and someone like to Joe to keep the program moving forward.

Read more about the demonstration program: Reducing hospital inpatient complications

Kristine Daynes is a product marketing manager for payer and regulatory markets at 3M Health Information Systems.

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