Friday, September 21, 2012

The EHR – A Tool For Blocking Admissions

This is a mildly entertaining ethnographic study of how ED physicians, IM physicians, and surgeons used the Electronic Health Record (EHR) in the context of patient care in a tertiary medical center.

Essentially, the authors observed and interviewed residents and attendings in their use of the EHR, and identified its use in a function termed "chart biopsy" during the admission handoff process.  Inpatient teams were observed using the EHR to get a quick overview of the patient prior to the handoff, to provide the foundation for the history & physical, and – most entertainingly – to use as a weapon in negotiation and "blocking" potential admissions with ED physicians.  Other amusing anecdotes include the authors' characterization of inpatient physicians feeling "less 'at the mercy' of ED physicians" after doing a pre-handoff chart biopsy, or feeling as though they could guard against the "disorganized ramblings" off the handoff process.

Overall, the authors correctly identify EHRs as increasingly prevalent supplements to traditional information gathering techniques, and make a reasonable proposal for evolution in EHRs to aid the "chart biopsy" process.

"Chart biopsy: an emerging medical practice enabled by electronic health records and its impacts on emergency department-inpatient admission handoffs."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Unnecessary Post-Reduction X-Rays?

Falling into the "well, duh" sort of category that cuts through the dogmatic haze, this article examines the ordering of post-reduction radiographs in the Emergency Department.

Specifically, this group of orthopedists from New York City looks at X-ray utilization and length-of-stay after consultation and management of minimally displaced, minimally angulated extremity fractures.  They note that, of 342 fractures meeting study criteria, 204 of them subsequently received post-splinting radiography.  They note that none of the patients receiving post-reduction radiography had any change in alignment or change in splint application, and this practice resulted in significantly longer ED length-of-stay.

This leads them to their conclusion that minimally displaced, minimally angulated extremity fractures that do not receive manipulation when splinting should not be re-imaged after splint application.  And, this seems like a fairly reasonable conclusion.  It's retrospective, the outcomes are surrogates for patient oriented-outcomes, etc., and it would be reasonable to re-evaluate this conclusion in a prospective trial –   but if your practice is already to not routinely re-image, this supports continuing your entirely reasonable clinical decision-making.

"Post-Splinting Radiographs of Minimally Displaced Fractures: Good Medicine or Medicolegal Protection?"

Monday, September 17, 2012

Longer Resuscitation "Saves"

This article made the rounds a couple weeks ago in the news media, probably based on the conclusion from the abstract stating "efforts to systematically increase the duration of resuscitation could improve survival in this high-risk population."

They base this statement off a retrospective review of prospectively gathered standardized data from in-hospital cardiac arrests.  Comparing 31,000 patients with ROSC following an initial episode of cardiac arrest with a cohort of 33,000 who did not have ROSC – the authors found that patients who arrested at hospitals with higher median resuscitation times were more likely to have ROSC.  Initial ROSC was tied to survival to discharge, where hospitals with the shortest median resuscitation time having a 14.5% adjusted survival compared to 16.2% at hospitals with the longest resuscitations.

Now, if you're a glass half-full sort of person, "could improve survival" sounds like an endorsement.  However, when we're conjuring up hypotheses and associations from retrospective data, it's important to re-read every instance of "could" and "might" as "could not" and "might not".  They also performed a horde of patient-related covariates, which gives some scope of the difficulty of weeding out a significant finding from the confounders.  The most glaring difference in their baseline characteristics was the 6% absolute difference in witnessed arrest – which if not accounted for properly could nearly explain the entirety of their outcomes difference.

It's also to consider the unintended consequences of their statement.  What does it mean to continue resuscitation past the point it is judged clinically appropriate?  What sort of potentially well-meaning policies might this entail?  What are the harms to other patients in the facility if nursing and physician resources are increasingly tied up in (mostly) futile resuscitations?  How much additional healthcare costs will result from additional successful ROSC – most of whom are still not neurologically intact survivors?

"Duration of resuscitation efforts and survival after in-hospital cardiac arrest: an observational study"