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Innovations in Pressure Injury Reporting

Creating Actionable Data for Improvement

Polancich, Shea; Williamson, Jason; Poe, Terri; Armstrong, Amy; Vander Noot, Ross M.

The Journal for Healthcare Quality (JHQ): May/June 2019 - Volume 41 - Issue 3 - p 180–187
doi: 10.1097/JHQ.0000000000000196
Translation of Research into Healthcare Quality Practice

ABSTRACT This department column highlights translation of research into health care quality practice. Achieving the highest quality of health care requires attention to developing and sustaining process efficiencies, and a thorough understanding of data and reporting. Mitigating or eliminating harm from pressure injuries may be more quickly achieved when accurate and consistent data are available for creating actionable interventions. The three aims of this project were to (1) confirm internally reported hospital acquired pressure injury data, (2) identify opportunities for improving the accuracy of internal reports, and (3) design and implement innovative quality informatics solutions for pressure injury reporting.

For more information on this article, contact Shea Polancich at

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.



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Pressure injuries are a significant adverse event for the hospitalized patient. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) estimates that 2.5 million patients annually are impacted by pressure injury, with 3.5–4.5% of pressure injuries occurring in hospitalized inpatients, the majority of which may be preventable.1 Pressure injuries are a costly comorbid condition; in the US health care industry, expenditures for pressure injuries range from $9.1 to 11.6 billion dollars annually.2 Pressure injuries are most often avoidable through adherence to effective evidence informed clinical care. Because of the substantial clinical and financial impact of the occurrence of a pressure injury on a hospitalized patient, and the avoidable nature of most inpatient injuries, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services consider pressure injury a never-event hospital-acquired condition.3–5

Nurses have focused attention on the avoidance of pressure injuries for decades. Health care leaders often view the rate of pressure injuries as a measure of successful nursing care, and incidence and prevalence of pressure injuries is a nursing sensitive measure.6 Successful improvement in the rate of occurrence in pressure injuries requires the availability of robust, actionable incidence data. For health care leaders, having such data are an important element of the improvement process for mitigating risk and decreasing the probability for evolving pressure injury in the hospitalized patient.

The three aims of the project described in this article were to (1) confirm internally reported hospital acquired pressure injury data; (2) identify opportunities for improving the accuracy of internal reports; and, (3) design and implement innovative quality informatics solutions into the pressure injury reporting process. The final project aim was seen as crucial to improve the reporting of pressure injury data to affect earlier management and treatment of pressure injuries and decrease patient risk for stage progression.

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The setting for the improvement project was an academic medical center in the southeastern United States. The facility is designated as an urban, academic medical center with approximately 1,100 beds. The medical campus covers numerous city blocks with a central medical center and outlying hospital and an ambulatory clinic. In 2018, the organization treated over 360,000 outpatients and 41,000 inpatients.

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In 2016, nursing leadership in this organization sought stakeholder feedback on the reporting of nursing sensitive measures. Frontline nursing leaders perceived that organizational reports on Hospital Acquired Pressure Injuries (HAPI) were over-reported and lacked timeliness for real-time correction. This perception of data inaccuracy contributed to a lack of accountability by the nurse leaders for improvement. An additional criticism of the HAPI reports was the delay in timing when reports were received, creating a retrospective situation where there was no opportunity for improvement. Nurse managers received pressure injury reports that were not confirmed for clinical accuracy at the close of the month after the discharge of the patient. A pilot study conducted in the department of nursing confirmed the perception of the nurse managers and other organizational leadership that the reported pressure injury data were incorrect.7

In 2017, the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) nurse team was restructured followed by a redesign of the Interprofessional Skin Team (IST) in 2018 to create a more collaborative connection between the 2 groups. Previous skin teams had been disjointed and lacked interprofessional leadership and engagement. The IST was composed of stakeholders across acute and ambulatory setting within the organization and chaired jointly by a physician and a nurse champion. Membership on the IST included but is not limited to representatives from nursing, nutrition, health information management, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, and supply chain. One of the first priorities of the IST was to confirm the accuracy of pressure injury reports, with the intent of legitimizing data for actionable improvement.

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Pressure Injury Reporting

Pressure injury reporting within the organization occurred through internal and external mechanisms. Internal pressure injury reports were operationally defined by organizational leadership and generated from data created as a byproduct of care delivery. The internal pressure injury report consisted of nursing documentation of an observed skin event obtained from the electronic health record (EHR). Report writers in the facility developed this internal report and mapped the nurse documentation to defined pressure injury stages using the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) staging methodology.5Table 1 provides the NPUAP staging convention with mapping to the nursing descriptors. Pressure injury data in the report were summed monthly by nursing unit and made available to organizational leaders through an electronic portal.

Table 1-a

Table 1-a

Table 1-b

Table 1-b

External pressure injury reports were defined as a report generated by an external agency using a national standard or agency definition. These data are primarily generated from administrative or coded data from physician or advanced practice provider health record documentation. The AHRQ Patient Safety Indicator (PSI) 03 is a comparative report used by organizations as an external comparison measure with benchmarks from similar facilities.8

The AHRQ pressure injury PSI 03 is a patient safety measure designed to capture pressure injuries of a higher stage or complexity using administrative billing data. Stage III pressure injuries or higher are the target for this patient safety measure because of the additional resources and potential increase in patient morbidity and mortality associated with this level of pressure injury event. After an operational definition and using a series of inclusion and exclusion criteria, a patient encounter is assigned a PSI 03 when a medical/surgical patient meeting the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the measure is attributed an International Classification of Disease-10 (ICD-10)9 code consistent with a patient obtaining a pressure injury of a Stage III or higher during the hospital stay.

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An improvement team from the IST initiated an iterative Plan-Do-Study-Act10,11 improvement effort in 2018 that consisted of two interventions. The two interventions included a WOC nurse workflow redesign, and two technology innovations designed to improve the accuracy and timeliness of hospital acquired pressure injury reporting.

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Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse Workflow Redesign

The first improvement cycle implemented by the improvement team included changing the workflow of the WOC nurses. Before the improvement redesign, the WOC nurses were not confirming all stages of pressure injuries. The staff nurses in this organization describe skin events using a defined set of skin descriptors that are mapped to the NPUAP5 staging criteria (Table 1). Before the workflow intervention, the WOC nurses only evaluated nurse described skin events consistent with a Stage III pressure ulcer or higher using an automatic, electronic consult order.

In 2017, the organization committed additional funding to increase the number of WOC nurses from 4 to 12. Each WOC nurse is assigned responsibility for a caseload of approximately 100 beds in the hospital and tasked with unit surveillance of patients, treatment and management of wounds, and staff education. The additional WOC resources allowed for the expansion of wound expertise in the inpatient settings, expanded coverage in the ambulatory clinics, and provided bandwidth for the confirmation of all pressure injuries by a wound expert. In the first improvement cycle, the WOC nurses began proactively evaluating and confirming all skin descriptors documented by the staff nurses consistent with any stage of pressure injury, a significant change from the previous automatic consult process.

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Series of Technology Interventions

The second improvement cycle focused on innovative technology solutions developed to complement the process changes in the WOC nurse workflow. The new technology solutions enhanced the timeliness and display of pressure injury data for both internal process improvement and external comparative data reporting.

The first technology innovation was the development of a provider dashboard with real-time display of pressure injury staging and staff nurse documentation of wound descriptors. The second technology innovation was the development of a HAPI reporting platform that provides actionable, daily reports containing a variety of visual displays.

The provider dashboard is available to all clinical providers and was created in the EHR to exhibit real-time documentation of individual patient-level detail of pressure injury stages reported by WOC nurses and the skin descriptors documented by the nursing staff. The provider dashboard was a custom-built application in the EHR developed to serve as a clinical checklist for providers. This dashboard creates a patient list highlighting existing clinical risk factors that are considered important for clinician awareness and could potentially be unnoticed in the interprofessional documentation.

Skin observations documented by the staff nurse and staged pressure injuries by the WOC nurse team are one of the items highlighted on the provider dashboard and are available by unit or provider-specific patient list. The pressure injury information provided on the dashboard is reflective of real-time documentation and available on the completion of the documentation by the provider during the provision of care. For example, if a staff nurse documents a skin event of “red, skin intact” for a sacrum, and the WOC nurse evaluates the skin assessment and confirms the staff nurse observation and documents a “Stage I” pressure injury, both the WOC nurse and staff nurse skin assessments will show on the provider dashboard. The clinical providers understand that the staging language is the WOC nurse assessment, and the descriptor language is the staff nurse assessment. The provider is able to adjust the plan of care and documentation based on the real-time pressure injury information available from the WOC and nursing staff.

The provider dashboard provides pressure injury information on single patients but does not provide a summary of pressure injuries across the organization. The improvement team developed the second technology innovation, the HAPI reporting platform, using a business intelligence tool to address pressure injury incidence and incidence density. Incidence is defined as the frequency of pressure injury within the organization, and incidence density is defined as the most frequent geographic locations and types of pressure injuries that occur. The improvement team developed reports to address both incidence and incidence density.

Monthly retrospective reports for pressure injuries had initially been developed using skin observations available within the nursing documentation section of the EHR. In previous pressure injury reports, report writers were unable to use WOC nurse staging information because these data existed in nondiscrete fields. In addition to increased WOC nurse resources and the revised workflow described, the WOC nurse documentation was revised in the second improvement cycle to include new pressure injury data fields. These added data fields in the EHR include WOC nurse staging reflective of a pressure injury, present on arrival and present on transfer to another unit, WOC nurse-specific fields to document progression in staging, and the ability for the WOC nurse to delineate “no pressure injury” when the staff nurse documentation was incorrect. The addition of and use of new fields for data capture in the WOC nurse documentation allowed for more accurate information to be electronically displayed, abstracted, and harvested for redesigned pressure injury reports.

The HAPI reporting platform was designed to capture pressure injury information on incidence and incidence density using the newly established WOC nurse fields described above. Users are able to log into the HAPI reporting platform on a daily basis and evaluate the status of pressure injuries at the unit and the organization level. The reports within the HAPI reporting platform are generally structured to provide summary data and the individual patient detail. Useful information is provided in the individual patient level detail including dates and times for the documentation of both the nursing staff and the WOC nurse team. From these data, nurse leaders are able to track the progression of each pressure injury during the patient encounter for an admission.

The reporting repository within the HAPI reporting platform contains seven pressure injury reports used for internal improvement (Table 2). Six of the seven reports are specific to incidence and incidence density for internal reporting. A summary incidence report is available two times per day and provides a count of unit and organization-wide, all-stage HAPI with trended information and statistical process control.

Table 2

Table 2

The seventh report is the AHRQ PSI 03 report containing incidence data for external reporting. The IST developed this report in response to organizational leadership review of comparative data for PSI 03, and questions regarding internally reported data as compared to externally reported data on pressure injuries. The report connects attributed PSI 03 data to WOC nurse and nursing documentation found in the EHR, and all information documented in the internal pressure injury report. Review of these data assists leaders in the development of knowledge related to differences in internal and external reports and improvement in workflow such as the identification of opportunities in coding or in provider documentation.

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After implementation of the redesigned process and a 3-month period of data confirmation, documented all-stage HAPI decreased from 164 total (raw) count in March 2018 to an average of approximately 100 reported all-stage pressure injuries per month from April 2018 to February 2019, a 39% decrease. The all-stage hospital acquired pressure injury counts range monthly from 83 to 119. Statistical process control has shown only common cause variation in the first 9 months after implementation of the new process.

There have been no reported data discrepancies by nursing leaders or the WOC nurse team since May 2018. The last data discrepancy reported in May 2018 related to patients captured on the report with a present on admission flag, which is an exclusion. After investigation by the report team, the error was not in the functionality of the report, but rather in the data definition for inclusion and exclusion criteria. The AHRQ PSI 03 report exposed evidence of variation between internally and externally reported HAPI, which highlighted the need to examine the discrepancies in more detail.

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Confirming pressure injury data resulted in the identification of inaccurate pressure injury reports, highlighted opportunities to improve pressure injury documentation workflow, and emphasized the need for just-in-time, actionable data. Developing innovative quality informatics solutions that result in timely and accurate pressure injury reports may lead to improvements in patient care outcomes, and better understanding and knowledge by organizational leadership of the differences in the internal and external pressure injury reports.

The project team found that the improvements in pressure injury reporting highlighted several key factors. First, confirming data at the point of care is critical to the development of accurate reports. Second, workflow redesign should precede technological solutions and redesigned reporting. The positive outcomes of this project would not have been realized had the workflow had not been revised to be inclusive of the documentation of the wound experts.

To achieve actionable data, leaders need both accurate and consistent information in a timely fashion. Retrospective information has little to no value in real-time improvement. In the clinical environment, providers must be able to proactively mitigate risk. For pressure injury, early identification of lower-stage pressure injuries may allow for the prevention of stage progression. This risk mitigation may only be accomplished if providers have access to timely information on all at-risk patients in the census.

Confirming documented health record data is necessary for developing accurate reports. This project team began work by listening to the stakeholders regarding the perception that pressure injury data lacked accuracy. The team completed a data confirmation process with members of the WOC nurse team evaluating each reported pressure injury identified in the report and contacting the report developer when expected pressure injuries were absent from the report. This data confirmation process resulted in a degree of accuracy for the reported information that had not occurred in previous reports.

The project team identified opportunities in reporting not realized at the inception of the report redesign. Exclusions had to be developed for patients moving between inpatient and outpatient areas of the facility. Operational definitions should be clearly defined at the onset of report development.

Another challenge experienced was that process redesign and accurate data may increase or decrease pressure injury counts in unexpected ways. The team found that there was a decrease in the total number of internally reported HAPI because duplicates in previous reports or erroneously classified injuries were eliminated. Externally reported data potentially increased due to better documentation from the WOC nurse team, which may have allowed for query opportunities in coding that had previously been missed.

There was also increased incidence of deep tissue injury (DTI). The confirmation of a DTI may be problematic physiologically. A suspected DTI may not be an actual DTI. However, if the DTI terminology is documented by a provider in the health record, coders must abide by coding guidelines and default the attribution of a code for the wound to an unstageable pressure injury whether or not there is an actual DTI. Provider confirmation of a DTI is imperative for accurate reporting of external data.

Evaluating the consistency in internal and external data is an essential process. The improvement team found evidence of variation in internally reported and externally reported AHRQ PSI 03 data. Because of the significance of the impact of erroneous data on reimbursement, after analysis of the internal and external pressure injury data, the IST established a second improvement project aimed at refining the accuracy of externally reported pressure injury data. Attention to the attribution of DTI is a specific focus of the next iterative improvement effort.

The key to successful reporting of pressure injury data is to develop a workflow that supports data accuracy, and a process that consistently provides accurate and timely information. Table 3 provides information on key determinants for creating accurate and consistent pressure injury reporting.

Table 3

Table 3

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Authors' Biographies

Shea Polancich, PhD, RN, is column editor for the Journal for Healthcare Quality's department “Translation of Research into Healthcare Quality Practice.” Dr. Polancich has been practicing in quality and patient safety for over a decade. She is currently an assistant professor and assistant dean at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing, with a primary practice at the UAB Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama, as a director specializing in nursing improvement, innovation, and analytics. Formerly, her roles included the Director for Quality and Patient Safety at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Director of Data Analysis and Measurement at Texas Health Resources, NIH/NINR research intern, and health policy fellow at George Mason University. She served on an NQF advisory group specific to patient safety and adverse events. She may be contacted at

Jason Williamson, BS, is a manager of Financial Systems at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Jason works with the Department of Nursing and the School of Nursing at UAB to guide and assist with software development and nursing analytics projects to help identify ways to reduce cost and improve the quality of care for patients. Jason has over a decade of experience in research and development related to clinical applications and was formerly a product development manager with one of the nation's largest providers of health care systems.

Terri Poe, DNP, RN, NE-BC, is the Senior Associate Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for the University of Alabama Hospital (Birmingham). She received her Bachelor's degree of Nursing (1986), Master's degree of Public Administration (1993) and Doctorate degree of Nursing Practice (2013) all from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Before her role as the CNO, she was the Administrative Director for Emergency Services and has served as a nursing leader for over 3 decades. Poe serves on the Board of the Alabama Chapter of AONE. She is a 2015 graduate from the America's Essential Hospital fellowship program.

Amy Armstrong, MSN, RN, CWOCN, CNL, is a certified wound, ostomy, and continence nurse for the UAB Hospital Acute Care Surgery WOC Nurse team. She is a masters prepared nurse and Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL).

Ross Martin Vander Noot, MD, is a physician and associate professor in the department of acute care surgery at UAB hospital. He serves as the medical director for the Wound, Ostomy, Continence Team (WOCT).

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The authors acknowledge the work of the Wound, Ostomy, Continence Team (WOCT) for their efforts in revising the workflow to create more actionable data.

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Pressure injury; improvement; informatics

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