DiversityNursing Blog

A Surgery Standard Under Fire

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Mar 04, 2015 @ 12:21 PM

  PAULA SPAN

03SPAMJP articleLarge resized 600

What she wanted, the patient told the geriatricians evaluating her, was to be able to return to her condominium in Boston. She had long lived there on her own, lifting weights to keep fit and doing her own grocery shopping, until a heart condition worsened and she could barely manage the stairs.

So at 94, she consented to valve replacement surgery at a Boston medical center. “She never wanted to go to a nursing home,” said Dr. Perla Macip, one of the patient’s geriatricians. “That was her worst fear.”

Dr. Macip presented the case on Saturday to a meeting of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. The presentation’s dispiriting title: “The 30-Day Mortality Rule in Surgery: Does This Number Prolong Unnecessary Suffering in Vulnerable Elderly Patients?”

Like Dr. Macip, a growing number of physicians and researchers have grown critical of 30-day mortality as a measure of surgical success. That seemingly innocuous metric, they argue, may actually undermine appropriate care, especially for older adults.

The experience of Dr. Macip’s patient — whom she calls Ms. S. — shows why.

Ms. S. sustained cardiopulmonary arrest during the operation and needed resuscitation. A series of complications followed: irregular heartbeat, fluid in her lungs, kidney damage, pneumonia. She had a stroke and moved in and out of the intensive care unit, off and on a ventilator.

After two weeks, “she was depressed and stopped eating,” Dr. Macip said. The geriatricians recommended a “goals of care” discussion to clarify whether Ms. S., who remained mentally clear, wanted to continue such aggressive treatment.

But “the surgeons were optimistic that she would recover” and declined, Dr. Macip said.

So a discussion of palliative care options was deferred until Day 30 after her operation, by which time Ms. S. had developed sepsis and multiple-organ failure. She died on Day 31, after life support was discontinued.

The key number here, surgeons and other medical professionals will recognize, is 30.

Thirty-day mortality serves as a traditional yardstick for surgical quality. Several states, including Massachusetts, require public reporting of 30-day mortality after cardiac procedures. Medicare has also begun to use certain risk-adjusted 30-day mortality measures, like deaths after pneumonia and heart attacks, to penalize hospitals with poor performance and reward those with better outcomes.

However laudable the intent, reliance on 30-day mortality as a surgical report card has also generated growing controversy. Some experts believe pressures for superior 30-day statistics can cause unacknowledged harm, discouraging surgery for patients who could benefit and sentencing others to long stays in I.C.U.s and nursing homes.

“Thirty days is a game-able number,” said Dr. Gretchen Schwarze, a vascular surgeon at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-author of an editorial on the metric in JAMA Surgery. Last fall, she led a session about the ethics of 30-day mortality reporting at an American College of Surgeons conference.

“Surgeons in the audience stood up and said, ‘I can’t operate on some people because it’s going to hurt our 30-day mortality statistics,’” she recalled. The debate is particularly urgent for older adults, who are more likely to undergo surgery and to have complications.

Those questioning the 30-day metric point to potential dilemmas at both ends of the surgical spectrum. Surgeons may decline to operate on high-risk patients, even those who understand and accept the trade-offs, because of fears (conscious or not) that deaths could hurt their 30-day results.

At a hospital in Pennsylvania, for instance, a cardiothoracic surgeon declined to operate on a man who urgently needed a mitral valve replacement. He wasn’t elderly, at 53, but he was an alcoholic whose liver damage increased his risk of dying.

Dr. Douglas White, the director of ethics and decision-making in critical illness at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was asked to consult. According to Dr. White, the surgeon explained that “we have been told that our publicly reported numbers are bad, and we have to take fewer high-risk patients.”

Other surgeons at the hospital, under similar pressure, also refused. A helicopter flew the patient to another hospital for surgery.

An outlier case? A study in JAMA in 2012 compared three states that require public reporting of coronary stenting results to seven nearby states that didn’t report. Older-adult patients having acute heart attacks had substantially lower rates of the stenting in the reporting states. Doctors’ concerns about disclosure of poor outcomes might have led them to perform fewer procedures, the authors speculated; they might also have weeded out poorer candidates for surgery.

Perhaps as important for older people, when things go wrong, surgical teams concerned about their 30-day metrics may delay important conversations about palliative care or hospice, or even override advance directives.

“There are no good published studies on this, but it’s something we see,” Dr. White said. “Surgeons are reluctant to withdraw life support before 30 days, and less reluctant after 30 days.”

That may have been what happened to Ms. S. Or perhaps her aggressive treatment resulted from a surgical ethos that has little to do with mortality reports.

“We want to cure patients and help them live, and we consider it a failure if they don’t,” said Dr. Anne Mosenthal, who heads the American College of Surgeons committee on surgical palliative care.

With surgeons already prone to optimism and disinclined to withdraw life support, the effect of reporting failures, if there is one, is subtle. Surgeons tell themselves, “Maybe if we wait a little longer, he’ll improve; there’s always a chance,” Dr. Mosenthal said.

But many older patients, and their families, have different ideas about what makes life worth sustaining and might welcome a frank discussion before a month passes.

“The 30-day mortality statistic creates a conflict of interests,” said Dr. Lisa Lehmann, an associate professor of medical ethics at Harvard Medical School. “It can lead to the violation of a physician’s duty to put patients’ interests first.”

Leaders at the nonprofit National Quality Forum, which just endorsed 30-day mortality as a measure for coronary bypass surgery, find such fears overblown. The forum evaluates quality measures for Medicare and other insurers, and went ahead with its endorsement despite some physicians’ objections.

“There is some concern,” said Dr. Helen Burstin, the chief scientific officer of the forum, but “certainly no evidence” that the metric is unduly influencing patient care.

“Is it better not to measure and compare, just because we can’t get it perfect?” added Dr. Lee Fleisher, a co-chairman of the forum’s surgery standing committee.

But critics think other quality measures might serve better. Perhaps the benchmark should be 60- or 90-day mortality. Perhaps patients having palliative surgery to relieve symptoms should be tracked separately, because comfort is their goal, not survival.

Maybe quality should include days spent in an I.C.U. or on a ventilator, Dr. Schwarze said.

“Medicine isn’t just about keeping people alive,” she said. “Some of it is about relieving suffering. Some of it is about helping people die.”

Source: www.nytimes.com

Topics: health, healthcare, hospital, health care, doctors, patient, physician, nurse, nursing, ICU, standards, surgery, surgeons, nursing home, 30 Day Mortality Rule

Americans Rate Nurses Highest on Honesty, Ethical Standards

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, Dec 23, 2014 @ 12:04 PM

By Rebecca Riffkin

7jvwts8ufuyyzvzd8llhkq resized 600

In 2014, Americans say nurses have the highest honesty and ethical standards. Members of Congress and car salespeople were given the worst ratings among the 11 professions included in this year's poll. Eighty percent of Americans say nurses have "very high" or "high" standards of honesty and ethics, compared with a 7% rating for members of Congress and 8% for car salespeople.

U.S. Views on Honesty and Ethical Standards in Professions

Americans have been asked to rate the honesty and ethics of various professions annually since 1990, and periodically since 1976. Nurses have topped the list each year since they were first included in 1999, with the exception of 2001 when firefighters were included in response to their work during and after the 9/11 attacks. Since 2005, at least 80% of Americans have said nurses have high ethics and honesty. Two other medical professions -- medical doctors and pharmacists -- tie this year for second place at 65%, with police officers and clergy approaching 50%.

Historically, honesty and ethics ratings for members of Congress have generally not been positive, with the highest rating reaching 25% in 2001. Since 2009, Congress has ranked at or near the bottom of the list, usually tied with other poorly viewed professions like car salespeople and -- when they have been included -- lobbyists, telemarketers, HMO managers, stockbrokers and advertising practitioners.

Although members of Congress and car salespeople have similar percentages rating their honesty and ethics as "very high" or "high," members of Congress are much more likely to receive "low" or "very low" ratings (61%), compared with 45% for car salespeople. Last year, 66% of Americans rated Congress' honesty and ethics "low" or "very low," the worst Gallup has measured for any profession historically.

Other relatively poorly rated professions, including advertising practitioners, lawyers, business executives and bankers are more likely to receive "average" than "low" honesty and ethical ratings. So while several of these professions rank about as low as members of Congress in terms of having high ethics, they are less likely than members of Congress to be viewed as having low ethics.

No Professions Improved in Ratings of High Honesty, Ethics Since 2013

Since 2013, all professions either dropped or stayed the same in the percentage of Americans who said they have high honesty and ethics. The only profession to show a small increase was lawyers, and this rise was small (one percentage point) and within the margin of error. The largest drops were among police officers, pharmacists and business executives. But medical doctors, bankers and advertising practitioners also saw drops.

U.S. Views on Honesty and Ethical Standards in Professions Compared With 2013

Honesty and ethics ratings of police dropped six percentage points since last year, driven down by many fewer nonwhite Americans saying the police have high honesty and ethical standards. The clergy's 47% rating last year marked the first year that less than 50% of Americans said the clergy had high ethical and honesty standards -- and the current 46% rating is, by one percentage point, the lowest Gallup has measured for that profession to date.

Bottom Line

Americans continue to rate those in medical professions as having higher honesty and ethical standards than those in most other professions. Nurses have consistently been the top-rated profession -- although doctors and pharmacists also receive high ratings, despite the drops since 2013 in the percentage of Americans who say they have high ethics. The high ratings of medical professions this year is significant after the Ebola outbreak which infected a number of medical professionals both in the U.S. and in West Africa.

At the other end of the spectrum, in recent years, members of Congress have sunk to the same depths as car salespeople and advertising practitioners. However, in one respect, Congress is even worse, given the historically high percentages rating its members' honesty and ethics as being "low" or "very low." And although November's midterm elections did produce a significant change in membership for the new Congress that begins in January, there were also major shakeups in the 2006 and 2010 midterm elections with little improvement in the way Americans viewed the members who serve in that institution.

Previously in 2014, Gallup found that Americans continue to have low confidence in banks, and while Americans continue to have confidence in small businesses, big businesses do not earn a lot of confidence. This may be the result of Americans' views that bankers and business executives do not have high honesty and ethical standards, and the fact that their ratings dropped since last year.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 8-11, 2014, with a random sample of 805 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Source: www.gallup.com

Topics: nurses, nursing, survey, standards, careers, America, Gallup, polls, Ethics, Honesty, professions

What are the National CLAS Standards?

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Mon, Apr 14, 2014 @ 11:50 AM

The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care(the National CLAS Standards) are intended to advance health equity, improve quality, and help eliminate health care disparities by providing a blueprint for individuals and health and health care organizations to implement culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Adoption of these Standards will help advance better health and health care in the United States.

The National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care: A Blueprint for Advancing and Sustaining CLAS Policy and Practice (The Blueprint) is an implementation guide to help you advance and sustain culturally and linguistically appropriate services within your organization. The Blueprint dedicates one chapter to each of the 15 Standards, with a review of the Standard's purpose, components, and strategies for implementation. In addition, each chapter provides a list of resources that offer additional information and guidance on that Standard.

Health Equity & Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS): How Are They Connected?

Health inequities in our nation are well documented, and the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) is one strategy to help eliminate health inequities. By tailoring services to an individual's culture and language preference, health professionals can help bring about positive health outcomes for diverse populations. The provision of health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and needs of diverse patients can help close the gap in health care outcomes. The pursuit of health equity must remain at the forefront of our efforts; we must always remember that dignity and quality of care are rights of all and not the privileges of a few.

What is the history of the National CLAS Standards?

In 2000, the Office of Minority Health published the first National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care (National CLAS Standards), which provided a framework for all health care organizations to best serve the nation’s increasingly diverse communities. In fall of 2010, the Office of Minority Health launched the National CLAS Standards Enhancement Initiative in order to revise the Standards to reflect the past decade’s advancements, expand their scope, and improve their clarity to ensure understanding and implementation. With the enhancement initiative, the National CLAS Standards will continue into the next decade as the cornerstone for advancing health equity through culturally and linguistically appropriate services.

Legislating CLAS

State agencies have embraced the importance of cultural and linguistic competency in the decade since the initial publication of the National CLAS Standards. A number of states have proposed or passed legislation pertaining to cultural competency training for one or more segments of their state’s health professionals. At least six states have moved to mandate some form of cultural and linguistic competency for either all or a component of its health care workforce. Access the Legislating CLAS map.

Source: Think Cultural Health

Topics: culture, law, CLAS, standards, health equity

Recent Jobs

Article or Blog Submissions

If you are interested in submitting content for our Blog, please ensure it fits the criteria below:
  • Relevant information for Nurses
  • Does NOT promote a product
  • Informative about Diversity, Inclusion & Cultural Competence

Agreement to publish on our DiversityNursing.com Blog is at our sole discretion.

Thank you

Subscribe to Email our eNewsletter

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all