Clinical pathways are care plans used by health providers to describe essential steps in the care of patients with specific medical conditions. Clinical implementation of the regional clinical pathways in Japan has spread, and the 2008 fee schedule included a new “regional inter-provider care planning fee” for stroke. However, no evidence regarding the efficacy of the regional clinical pathways for stroke has appeared.Objectives:
We examined the association of regional clinical pathways on the length of in-hospital stay in patients with stroke. We also examined whether a variation in the length of in-hospital stay for stroke patients between hospitals exists, and if so, the impact of regional clinical pathways on this variation.Research Design:
Cross-sectional analysis using the Diagnosis Procedure Combination database for the period April 2011 to March of 2012.Subjects:
A total of 117,180 patients with the diagnosis “cerebral infarction,” coded as I63 in ICD10.Measures:
Associations of the use of a regional clinical pathway with the length of in-hospital stay (LOS) were estimated by multilevel regression models using a 2-level structure of individuals nested within the 1011 hospitals. The models added both patient-level factors and hospital-level factors that are potentially associated with LOS.Results:
Hospitals administering a regional clinical pathway had a significantly shorter LOS (9.1 d) than hospitals that did not. Approximately 12% of the variation in LOS between hospitals is possibly explained by whether hospitals implement regional clinical pathways. Application of regional clinical pathways at the individual level is associated with a 7.2-day decrease in LOS at the individual level.Conclusions:
These findings suggest that the regional clinical pathways are potentially effective in improving the management of stroke patients and in promoting the consistency of care between hospitals.