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Changes in Physician Practice Patterns after Implementation of a Communication-and-Resolution Program

Objective: To test if a 2006 communication-and-resolution program to address unexpected adverse outcomes was associated with changes in cost and use trajectories.

Data Source: Records of patients discharged with a principal diagnosis of chest pain from 44 nonfederal general hospitals in Cook County, Illinois, between January 2002 and December 2009.

Study Design: Propensity-score matched discharges from the intervention and comparison hospitals before computing difference-in-differences estimates of quarterly growth rates.

Data Collection Methods: We used discharge records submitted to a central statewide repository.

Principal Findings: Relative to the comparison hospitals and to pre-implementation trends, and consistent with reduced testing at presentation, the intervention hospital recorded an increase in the number of patients with a principal diagnosis of chest pain. Among admitted patients, quarterly growth rates of clinical laboratory and radiology charges at the intervention hospital declined by 3.8 and 6.9 percentage points.

Conclusions: Among patients with chest pain, the implementation of a comprehensive communication-and-resolution program was associated with substantially reduced growth rates in the use of diagnostic testing and imaging services. Further research is needed to establish to what extent these changes were attributable to the program and clinically appropriate.

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