Recent changes in health care have begun to shift the industry from a volume-based to a value-based focus. This shift has led to standardized care pathways that decrease care variability, improve outcomes, and decrease cost. Although numerous studies have described standardized pathways for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), few have demonstrated sustainability. We report the effectiveness and sustainability of a standardized care pathway for patients undergoing posterior spinal fusion for AIS.
A standardized care pathway was developed and implemented (in March 2015) at our pediatric hospital for all patients undergoing posterior spinal fusion for AIS. This pathway was developed with use of the Lean process mapping technique to create an evidence-based protocol for preoperative, operative, postoperative, and post-discharge care. The 44 patients managed prior to implementation of the pathway (pre-pathway group) were compared with the 169 patients managed after implementation (post-pathway group). The post-pathway group was divided into 5 cohorts, each representing a 6-month time period. Clinical outcomes (pain scores, medication requirements, transfusions) and efficiency metrics (length of stay) were used to determine pathway sustainability.
The pre-pathway group included patients managed in the 8 months prior to implementation (July 2014 to February 2015) and the post-pathway group included patients who underwent surgery from March 2015 to July 2017, divided into 5 cohorts representing 6 months each. Patients in the post-pathway group had lower postoperative pain scores, and used significantly less opioids at each time interval, compared with the pre-pathway group. Perioperative transfusion requirements and postoperative length of stay were significantly lower across all post-pathway cohorts compared with the pre-pathway group. There were no significant differences in clinical results among the 5 post-pathway cohorts.
Implementation of a standardized care pathway developed with use of Lean process mapping demonstrated effective and sustained improvements to the care of patients with AIS, as well as decreased postoperative length of stay. These outcomes have been maintained over 2.5 years, indicating that high-quality care for patients with AIS undergoing spinal fusion can be achieved and sustained with use of a standardized care pathway.
Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.