Background. Clinical pathways have been advocated as a means to improve and standardize patient care while reducing costs through improved efficiency. This study examines the hypothesis that development of a clinical pathway reduces hospital admissions in a Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center. Materials and methods. For the year prior to June 1997, 168 elective inguinal herniorrhaphies were performed. This constituted the prepathway (pre-P) group. One hundred ninety-six elective inguinal herniorrhaphies were performed during the year following institution of the clinical pathway - the postpathway (post-P) group. Results. Hospital admissions were compared between the two groups. In the pre-P group 61 of the 168 patients (36%) were admitted while 29 of the 196 patients (15%) in the post-P group were admitted (P < 0.001). In the pre-P group 27 of the 53 patients reviewed (51%) had either no justification or inadequate justification for admission. In the post-P group 8 of the 29 patients admitted (28%) had inadequate justification (pre-P vs post-P, P = 0.124). Common reasons for admission included pain, perioperative complications, and concurrent medical problems or surgical procedures. The most common single cause other than pain was urinary retention. The average age of patients requiring admission was greater both pre-P and post-P. Conclusions. We conclude that institution of a clinical pathway for inguinal herniorrhaphy decreased hospital admissions. The reasons for this decrease are probably multifactorial and include improvements in physician and staff awareness. The decrease in unnecessary admissions should result in more efficient use of hospital resources.
- Critical pathways