Objective: Adult critical care services are a large, expensive part of U.S. health care. The current agenda for response to workforce shortages and rising costs has largely been determined by members of the critical care profession without input from other stakeholders. We sought to elicit the perceived problems and solutions to the delivery of critical care services from a broad set of U.S. stakeholders.
Design: A consensus process involving purposive sampling of identified stakeholders, preconference Web-based survey, and 2-day conference.
Setting: Participants represented healthcare providers, accreditation and quality-oversight groups, federal sponsoring institutions, healthcare vendors, and institutional and individual payers.
Subjects: We identified 39 stakeholders for the field of critical care medicine. Thirty-six (92%) completed the preconference survey and 37 (95%) attended the conference.
Measurements and Main Results: Participants expressed moderate to strong agreement with the concerns identified by the critical care professionals and additionally expressed consternation that the critical care delivery system was fragmented, variable, and not patient-centered. Recommended solutions included regionalizing the adult critical care system into “tiers” defined by explicit triage criteria and professional competencies, achieved through voluntary hospital accreditation, supported through an expanded process of competency certification, and monitored through process and outcome surveillance; implementing mechanisms for improved communication across providers and settings and between providers and patients/families; and conducting market research and a public education campaign regarding critical care’s promises and limitations.
Conclusions: This consensus conference confirms that agreement on solutions to complex healthcare delivery problems can be achieved and that problem and solution frames expand with broader stakeholder participation. This process can be used as a model by other specialties to address priority setting in an era of shifting demographics and increasing resource constraints.