LONGMONT — Before sending patients home, Longmont United Hospital follows certain protocols mirrored at hospitals nationwide.
But no hospital faithfully keeps to those discharge checklists, according to Hospital Compare data recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
To follow national protocols more closely, LUH this week volunteered to participate in a five-state study called the Hospital Discharge Initiative Project.
From April to September, participating hospitals will report discharge practices for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia patients to the Aurora-based Colorado Foundation for Medical Care.
LUH is one of 17 hospitals of 70 statewide to participate, CFMC spokesman Erich Kirshner said.
“By doing this, (LUH) puts itself in the top third tier in terms of their quality improvement,” he added.
While LUH will be reporting on more than a dozen discharge practices, the focus will be on just two prescriptions at discharge: ACE inhibitors for heart attack patients and pneumococcal vaccination, said Sharon Rominger, LUH’s director of quality and nurse executive.
ACE inhibitors work by halting the hormone production that narrows blood vessels, which helps lower blood pressure.
The Hospital Compare study reported that LUH prescribes ACE inhibitors to heart attack patients 91 percent of the time. That statistic bests both the 75 percent national and 84 percent Colorado rates.
But LUH could perform even better, Rominger said.
The hospital tracks the evidence-based national protocols and suggests that staff physicians and those with hospital privileges use them.
Rominger could not explain why some do and some don’t.
“That’s why we got into this project,” she said. “If we get (doctors) involved in this study they will hopefully buy into the suggested protocols. It doesn’t always work for us to tell them, ‘Here’s the deal.’”
LUH also aims to increase the number of pneumonia patients who get the pneumococcal vaccination before discharge, Rominger said.
Hospital Compare data show 43 percent of hospitals nationwide prescribe the vaccine before discharging patients. Statewide, that number is 51 percent. At LUH, 22 percent of pneumonia patients get the vaccine.
Administering the vaccine is important because it can prevent future infections and lower the risk of bacteria-related complications.
Rominger said participation in the CFMC study gives LUH an opportunity to analyze such protocol weaknesses.
It also grants the hospital better access to CFMC’s “expert” quality consulting and the findings at other participating hospitals, she said.
“This project is short and deadline-driven,” Rominger said. “We may not have had all of the information come together with our own research.”
CFMC project manager Katherine Glass said hospitals that participate demonstrate a willingness to change with the times.
“(Hospital staff) get used to doing their care a certain way. They’re not always aware of the current (suggested) protocols,” she said. “We want to make sure the patient gets all the right care, all the time, every time.”
CFMC plans to publish the report from the study in December.
Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-684-5224, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Colorado Foundation for Medical Care, www.cfmc.org
• Hospital Compare, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov