Improving intensive care: Observations based on organizational case studies in nine intensive care units

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Abstract

Design:

Prospective multicenter study. On-site organizational analysis; prospective inception cohort.

Setting:

Nine ICUs (one medical, two surgical, six medical-surgical) at five teaching and four nonteaching hospitals.

Participants:

A sample of 3,672 ICU admissions; 316 nurses and 202 physicians.

Materials and Methods:

Interviews and direct observations by a team of clinical and organizational researchers. Demographic, physiologic, and outcome data for an average of 408 admissions per ICU; and questionnaires on ICU structure and organization. The ratio of actual/predicted hospital death rate was used to measure ICU effectiveness; the ratio of actual/predicted length of ICU stay was used to assess efficiency.

Measurements and Main Results:

ICUs with superior risk-adjusted survival could not be distinguished by structural and organizational questionnaires or by global judgment following on-site analysis. Superior organizational practices among these ICUs were related to a patient-centered culture, strong medical and nursing leadership, effective communication and coordination, and open, collaborative approaches to solving problems and managing conflict.

Conclusions:

The best and worst organizational practices found in this study can be used by ICU leaders as a checklist for improving ICU management. (Crit Care Med 1993; 21:1443–1451)

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