Objective: To investigate the relationship between variability in surgical ward round (WR) quality and clinical outcomes.
Background: Evidence increasingly suggests that ward-based care plays a key role in surgical outcomes. The WR is the focal point of surgical inpatient care. Assimilating various sources of clinical information is necessary for thorough patient assessment during the WR; whether this relates to outcomes has not previously been examined.
Methods: WRs were observed for patients on a surgical high-dependency unit in a tertiary academic surgical unit. All sources of clinical information (SCI) were considered. Thoroughness of assessment, defined as the percentage of SCI assessed by the clinician, was recorded as a marker of WR quality. Complications were recorded from patient records; preventability was based on Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality guidelines. The relationship between WR quality and incidence of preventable complications was analyzed.
Results: Sixty-nine WRs were observed over 37 days for 50 patients receiving care in the high-dependency unit. Observed morbidity rate was 60% (30/50). Seventy-four percent of all complications (35/46) occurred on the high-dependency unit. There was significant variability in WR quality: clinicians assessed 9% to 91% (mean = 55% ± 17%) of SCI (analysis of variance P = 0.025). Low-quality (% SCI assessed less than the mean) WRs resulted in a greater incidence of patients experiencing preventable complications [83% (10/12) vs 39% (7/18)] (P = 0.034), odds ratio = 6.43 (95% confidence interval = 1.05–39.3). Forty-one percent of complications (19/46) could have been diagnosed earlier or possibly prevented.
Conclusions: Patient assessment during WRs is variable. Less thorough WRs result in delayed diagnoses and preventable complications, and they negatively affect outcomes. Focusing on WR quality and training may improve patient care.