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Cardiology

Children’s of Alabama CVICU Embraces Quality Improvement Projects

What if you could proactively identify patients who might go into cardiac arrest and intervene before the unthinkable happens? If you do what Children’s of Alabama did, you end up with fewer children having arrests and improved response times because of faster medication administration when an arrest does occur.

That’s all thanks to a multi-institutional quality improvement project — Cardiac Arrest Prevention (CAP) — centered around a resuscitation action plan, which focuses on rescuing patients before they arrest.

The project, led by cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) Medical Director Santiago Borasino, M.D., and cardiac intensivist Hayden Zaccagni, M.D., is part of the Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Consortium (PC⁴), made up of 52 of the country’s top children’s hospitals. The consortium maintains a focused CVICU registry designed to share real-time data and outcomes between institutions and participates in quality improvement projects to improve outcomes.

The CAP project is just one of the data-driven, collaborative learning initiatives the group has implemented.

Comprehensive Effort

“CAP is a joint effort with bedside nurses, respiratory therapists, administrative nursing staff and trainees, whether fellows or advanced practice practitioners, to not just identify at-risk patients but have a common mind-set and goals to prevent arrests,” Zaccagni said.

Once a patient meets certain criteria putting them at risk for cardiac arrest, the attending intensivist completes a paper report that remains bedside. Clinicians then round separately on these patients and, if warranted, give the bedside nurse the ability to start the treatment plan without waiting for separate orders. Resuscitation medications are kept at the bedside for immediate use if the patient demonstrates any danger signs. “The goal is to expedite interventions to prevent the arrest from occurring,” Zaccagni said.

Borasino, in collaboration with two former Children’s intensivists, Kimberly Jackson, M.D., and Jeffrey Alten, M.D., started the original resuscitation program. “Dr. Alten was our medical director and section chief until 2017 and he was instrumental in starting this project and then taking it to the national stage,” Borasino said, while Jackson coordinated the local effort when it began in 2013. Alten, now at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is still the coordinating head of the national initiative, while. Jackson has moved to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, where she leads its initiative.

The official PC4 initiative began in October 2018, but Children’s had something similar in place for three years, Zaccagni said. However, because the PC4 initiative includes more than 10,000 patients, there is more data available on best practices. So, for instance, Children’s adjusted the bedside rescue medications so they are easier to deliver.

Although the new initiative had only been in place eight months when this article was written, “anecdotally, I’d say we’ve reduced the number of cardiac arrests,” Borasino said.

More Quality Improvement Initiatives

Two other quality improvement projects are also demonstrating results:

Star Track. Geared towards less-complicated patients who have cardiac surgery, this initiative involves standardizing patient care to remove unnecessary equipment sooner. This improves patient comfort and enables them to transfer soon out of the CVICU. “The patient comfort is our main goal,” Borasino said. “Patients undergoing these types of surgeries are older and don’t require the level of invasive monitoring our unit provides.”

A secondary benefit is patient flow. “We are a busy unit, so this allows us to care for more patients as needed,” Borasino said. In addition, removing devices reduces the risk of infection from invasive equipment like Foley catheters and central lines.   

Alarm reduction. This initiative is geared toward reducing the number of alarms in the unit in an effort to reduce “alarm fatigue” while improving the overall atmosphere. Alarm parameters are reviewed every 12 hours to ensure they are still accurate given the continually changing status of the patient. To date, the number of alarms has dropped by a third. “We’re trying to diminish that even more,” Borasino said. “We’d like all alarms to be meaningful alarms.”

Quality Improvement

Learn more about the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Children’s Alabama.