Brigham and Women’s Hospital will coordinate and participate in a Quality Improvement Initiative that focuses on whether physician notification prior to discharge of high-risk VTE patients will reduce the incidence of VTE after hospital discharge.

Background Information and Rationale for the Study

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is often avoidable in hospitalized patients because proven prevention strategies have been established for patients at risk (1). North American and European prophylaxis guidelines have been widely disseminated. However, despite focus on strategies for the prevention of VTE in hospitalized patients at the time of admission to the hospital, there has been little focus on prevention of VTE at the time of discharge from the hospital (2,3).

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we undertook a previous Quality Improvement Initiative (BWH protocol # 2000P000328) aimed at increasing the frequency of VTE prophylaxis in high risk patients. This novel strategy required: 1) devising a risk score that reliably and quickly identified patients at high risk of VTE, and 2) randomizing high-risk patients without prophylaxis into an intervention group or control group. The intervention group’s physicians received a single electronic, computerized alert explaining that the patient was at high risk, was not receiving prophylaxis, and suggesting that prophylaxis be ordered from a template of available pharmacological and mechanical options. In contrast, the control group’s physicians received no alert (4).

Each of 8 common risk factors was weighted according to a point scale. To be labeled as “high-risk” for VTE, the point score must equal or exceed 4 points.

Minor (Low) Risk Factors (1 POINT each)

  • Advanced Age (>= 70 years of age)
  • Obesity (BMI >= 29, or the presence of the word “obesity” in admission exam notes)
  • Bed rest / Immobility (not related to surgery)
  • Female Hormone Replacement Therapy or Oral Contraceptives

Intermediate Risk Factor (2 POINTS each)

  • Major Surgery (>= 60 minutes, during this admission)

Major (High) Risk Factors (3 POINTS each)

  • Cancer (active)
  • Prior VTE
  • Hypercoagulability

There were 2,506 patients in the Quality Improvement Initiative: 1,255 in the intervention group and 1,251 in the control group. The incidence of symptomatic VTE at 90 days was high: 8.2% in the control group and 4.9% in the intervention group (4).

Currently, an investigator initiated Quality Improvement Initiative (BWH protocol # 2005-P-002527) of human alerts rather than electronic, computerized alerts, has been undertaken in high risk patients not receiving prophylaxis. Enrollment of 2,500 patients at 25 centers located throughout the United States was completed in November 2007 with a follow-up rate that exceeded 99%. Analysis of the data is currently being conducted.

Limited research focus has been placed on high-risk VTE subjects in the community, outside of the hospital setting. Since most VTE prophylaxis has focused upon protection of high-risk patients at the time of hospital admission, there is a need to focus on VTE prophylaxis within 48 hours of hospital discharge. It is clear that as preparations are being made for hospital discharge, many patients remain at high risk for DVT and acute pulmonary embolism. After discharge, some patients will have an even higher risk than during hospitalization because of prolonged immobilization and bed rest at home (5).

The Discharge-Alert Quality Improvement Initiative will determine whether alerting physicians about the importance of continued VTE prophylaxis just prior to the time of planned hospital discharge will lower the incidence of outpatient VTE. This new strategy is unproven and might not be effective, but this Quality Improvement Initiative should provide a definitive answer.