Objective: To assess the effect of a structured program of feedback about resource utilization and morbidity on resource consumption and complications in an orthopedic surgical practice. Design: We prospectively analyzed use and outcomes before and after an intervention (departmental data presentation). Material and Methods: Feedback on resource utilization and morbidity for 2,820 patients who underwent a primary total hip or knee arthroplasty for a diagnosis of osteoarthritis between Jan. 1, 1990, and Dec. 31, 1992, was provided to members of the orthopedic department of an academic medical center. Data were adjusted for severity of disease. Results: On reassessment 18 months after the beginning of the feedback program, total charges and length of hospital stay for hip or knee arthroplasty were significantly reduced. Interpractitioner variability was also reduced but not significantly. The feedback process was instrumental in identifying a specific complication-pulmonary embolism after bilateral total knee replacement-which was significantly reduced by addition of warfarin prophylaxis. Conclusion: The intervention was successful in reducing resource use (length of hospital stay) and complications (pulmonary embolism). In addition, total charges for hip and knee arthroplasty declined significantly at a time when medical center charges overall were increasing. Efforts to maintain continuous improvement will primarily focus on the development of critical pathways.
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