SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is trying to reduce dangerous and costly hospital readmissions by asking patients what they think could be done better.
Researchers are embarking on nine months of study on the matter, gathering information from patients about problems they might have experienced in communication and care coordination prior to and following surgery. The two issues are most often to blame for patients requiring a return to a doctor's care prematurely.
"We'll use their experiences to explore where major problems exist in surgical care coordination, including gaining access to surgical specialists and maintaining effective follow-up care," said Dr. Benjamin Brooke, a vascular surgeon and assistant professor of surgery at the U. who is leading the study.
Brooke and his research team hope to enlist up to 250 patients from rural and urban areas in Utah and surrounding states who have experienced surgical care at University of Utah Health Care hospitals and surgical centers. They are also looking to speak with medical providers who often refer patients to the U. facilities or see patients after surgery.
"We're trying to ensure that we're not creating gaps in care that arise from miscommunication or lack of communication," Brooke said.
Patients often meet with a number of providers, case consultants and other health care workers before, during and after surgery, increasing the potential for miscommunication and potential preventable problems. It is even more complicated when patients have multiple medical issues and/or take various medications, Brooke said.
But mix-ups can happen with just about any surgery patient.
"These issues are affecting quality of care now, and this is something that applies to all surgical areas," Brooke said. "We want to find patients who have a true interest in this issue and will give us insightful information."
The study is funded with $15,000 by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based patient advocacy group interested in improving communication between patients and providers.
Anyone interested in participating in the study — people who have had surgery or cared for someone who has — can visit medicine.utah.edu/surgery/patient-transitions.php or call 801-581-8409 for more information.
"There is a big opportunity for quality improvement" in the way patients are handed off from one provider to another, Brooke said.