Can practice patterns and outcomes be successfully altered? Examples from cardiovascular medicine. The Clinical Quality Improvement Network (CQIN) Investigators.
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OBJECTIVE: To offer an attributive opinion of recent improvements in acute myocardial infarction (AMI) practice patterns and patient outcomes in the culture of an active health care research program. DATA SOURCES: Review of original clinical data from five sequential, consecutively enrolled, AMI patient cohorts at the University of Alberta Hospitals from 1987-93. DATA SYNTHESIS: Early cohorts had low use of trial-proven efficacious therapies for AMI, particularly among high risk older and female patients. Over time, there were continuous and marked increases in the use of efficacious therapies and decreased use of nonefficacious therapies, with a parallel decrease in mortality among high risk patients. CONCLUSIONS: In a large tertiary care hospital between 1987 and 1993 the use of evidence-based AMI therapy and survival in high risk patients significantly increased. The continuity and large size of these improvements in AMI practice patterns, compared with similar populations reported in the contemporary literature, suggest it is unlikely they were due to chance. Rather, intercurrent repeated measurement and reporting of key health care performance indicators, and initiation of explicit critical path AMI practice guidelines provide a more likely explanation. Future studies by a network of community and university investigators will test whether these findings are true for a broad AMI population and whether similar practice definition and improvement tools are effective for other cardiac problems, including the management of congestive heart failure.
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