Publications

2015
Merkow, Ryan P, Mila H Ju, Jeanette W Chung, Bruce L Hall, Mark E Cohen, Mark V Williams, Thomas C Tsai, Clifford Y Ko, and Karl Y Bilimoria. 2015. “Underlying reasons associated with hospital readmission following surgery in the United States.” JAMA 313 (5): 483-95. Abstract
IMPORTANCE: Financial penalties for readmission have been expanded beyond medical conditions to include surgical procedures. Hospitals are working to reduce readmissions; however, little is known about the reasons for surgical readmission. OBJECTIVE: To characterize the reasons, timing, and factors associated with unplanned postoperative readmissions. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Patients undergoing surgery at one of 346 continuously enrolled US hospitals participating in the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP) between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012, had clinically abstracted information examined. Readmission rates and reasons (ascertained by clinical data abstractors at each hospital) were assessed for all surgical procedures and for 6 representative operations: bariatric procedures, colectomy or proctectomy, hysterectomy, total hip or knee arthroplasty, ventral hernia repair, and lower extremity vascular bypass. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Unplanned 30-day readmission and reason for readmission. RESULTS: The unplanned readmission rate for the 498,875 operations was 5.7%. For the individual procedures, the readmission rate ranged from 3.8% for hysterectomy to 14.9% for lower extremity vascular bypass. The most common reason for unplanned readmission was surgical site infection (SSI) overall (19.5%) and also after colectomy or proctectomy (25.8%), ventral hernia repair (26.5%), hysterectomy (28.8%), arthroplasty (18.8%), and lower extremity vascular bypass (36.4%). Obstruction or ileus was the most common reason for readmission after bariatric surgery (24.5%) and the second most common reason overall (10.3%), after colectomy or proctectomy (18.1%), ventral hernia repair (16.7%), and hysterectomy (13.4%). Only 2.3% of patients were readmitted for the same complication they had experienced during their index hospitalization. Only 3.3% of patients readmitted for SSIs had experienced an SSI during their index hospitalization. There was no time pattern for readmission, and early (≤7 days postdischarge) and late (>7 days postdischarge) readmissions were associated with the same 3 most common reasons: SSI, ileus or obstruction, and bleeding. Patient comorbidities, index surgical admission complications, non-home discharge (hazard ratio [HR], 1.40 [95% CI, 1.35-1.46]), teaching hospital status (HR, 1.14 [95% CI 1.07-1.21]), and higher surgical volume (HR, 1.15 [95% CI, 1.07-1.25]) were associated with a higher risk of hospital readmission. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Readmissions after surgery were associated with new postdischarge complications related to the procedure and not exacerbation of prior index hospitalization complications, suggesting that readmissions after surgery are a measure of postdischarge complications. These data should be considered when developing quality indicators and any policies penalizing hospitals for surgical readmission.
2014

A wave of hospital mergers during the last several years has raised concerns among US policy makers, regulators, and employers that increasing market consolidation may lead to higher health care spending as larger systems with greater market power extract higher prices from private payers. The number of hospital mergers or acquisitions has doubled since 2009, and many observers have pointed to the Affordable Care Act for transforming the economics of health care in ways that incentivize the creation of larger hospital systems.1 Although regulators are concerned about the effects of consolidation on health care prices, hospitals seeking to merge argue that larger, integrated systems will be able to provide substantially better care and achieve greater efficiencies.2 Whether these benefits result from consolidation is unclear. As federal regulators and policy makers weigh these issues, an assessment of the arguments that underlie the consolidation of the medical marketplace, and the potential influence of these arguments on clinical care, is warranted.

Preventing readmissions is a top priority in the current health care landscape. Although medical conditions have been the focus of these efforts, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently added 30-day all-cause readmissions after total hip/knee replacement to their 2014 public reporting and pay-for-performance programs.1 Compared with medical conditions, readmissions after surgery have been poorly studied. Furthermore, whether they truly reflect hospital surgical quality is not clear. To address this gap, we developed a hospital-level readmission composite measure that included 7 major surgical procedures frequently performed in Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and assessed how well it correlated with other well-established surgical quality metrics.

OBJECTIVE:: To determine whether black patients have higher odds of readmission than white patients after major surgery, and to ascertain whether these disparities are related to where black patients receive care. BACKGROUND:: Racial disparities are known to exist for many aspects of surgical care. However, it is unknown if disparities exist in readmissions after a surgical procedure, an area which is becoming a prime focus for clinical leaders and policymakers. METHODS:: Using national Medicare data from 2007 to 2010, we examined 30-day readmissions for patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting, pulmonary lobectomy, endovascular abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, colectomy, and hip replacement. The main outcome measure was risk-adjusted odds of all-cause 30-day readmission. We used multivariate logistic regression to determine if black patients had higher readmission rates than white patients, and if so, whether this effect was mediated by the hospitals at which patients received care, or by poverty. RESULTS:: Black patients had higher readmission rates than white patients (14.8% vs 12.8%, odds ratio [OR] 1.19; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.16-1.22; P < 0.001). Patients undergoing major surgery at minority-serving hospitals also had higher readmission rates (14.3% vs 12.8%, OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.09-1.19; P < 0.001). In multivariate analyses, black patients at minority-serving hospitals had the highest overall odds of readmissions (OR 1.34). White patients at minority-serving hospitals (OR 1.15) and black patients at non-minority-serving hospitals (OR 1.20) also had higher odds of readmission than the reference group of white patients at non-minority-serving hospitals. Racial disparities were mediated in part by poverty. CONCLUSIONS:: Among Medicare beneficiaries, black patients were more likely to be readmitted after hospitalization for surgical procedures. Since racial disparities in readmission rates are mediated both by patients' race and the hospital at which care is delivered, efforts at reducing disparities should focus not only on race-based measures but also on improving outcomes of care at minority-serving hospitals.

Tsai, TC, EJ Orav, and AK Jha. 2014. “Patient Satisfaction and Quality of Surgical Care in US Hospitals.” Annals of surgery. Abstract

OBJECTIVE:: The relationship between patient satisfaction and surgical quality is unclear for US hospitals. Using national data, we examined if hospitals with high patient satisfaction have lower levels of performance on accepted measures of the quality and efficiency of surgical care. BACKGROUND:: Federal policymakers have made patient satisfaction a core measure for the way hospitals are evaluated and paid through the value-based purchasing program. There is broad concern that performance on patient satisfaction may have little or even a negative correlation with the quality of surgical care, leading to potential trade-offs in efforts to improve patient experience with other surgical quality measures. METHODS:: We used the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey data from 2010 and 2011 to assess performance on patient experience. We used national Medicare data on 6 common surgical procedures to calculate measures of surgical efficiency and quality: risk-adjusted length of stay, process score, risk-adjusted mortality rate, risk-adjusted readmission rate, and a composite z score across all 4 metrics. Multivariate models adjusting for hospital characteristics were used to assess the independent relationships between patient satisfaction and measures of surgical efficiency and quality. RESULTS:: Of the 2953 US hospitals that perform one of these 6 procedures, the median patient satisfaction score was 69.5% (interquartile range, 63%-75.5%). Length of stay was shorter in hospitals with the highest levels of patient satisfaction (7.1 days vs 7.7 days, P < 0.001). Adjusting for procedural volume and structural characteristics, institutions in the highest quartile of patient satisfaction had the higher process of care performance (96.5 vs 95.5, P < 0.001), lower readmission rates (12.3% vs 13.6%, P < 0.001), and lower mortality (3.1% vs 3.6%) than those in the lowest quartile. Hospitals with high patient satisfaction also had a higher composite score for quality across all measures (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS:: Among US hospitals that perform major surgical procedures, hospitals with high patient satisfaction provided more efficient care and were associated with higher surgical quality. Our findings suggest there need not be a trade-off between good quality of care for surgical patients and ensuring a positive patient experience.

2013
Tsai, Thomas C, Karen E Joynt, John E Orav, Atul A Gawande, and Ashish K Jha. 2013. “Variation in Surgical-Readmission Rates and Quality of Hospital Care.” New England Journal of Medicine 369: 1134-1142.
Tsai, Thomas C, and Douglas S Smink. 2013. “Responding to the Boston marathon bombing: the unheralded role of graduate medical education.” Journal of Surgical Education 70 (5): 555-556.
Fan, AP, DT Tran, GA Mandell, TP Su, AW Chiu, RO Kosik, TC Tsai, and DE Morisky. 2013. “The contribution of international medical students to Taiwanese medical school classes.” Med TeachMed TeachMed Teach 35: 100-1.
2011
Goldstein, Matthew, and Thomas C Tsai. 2011. “Patient Safety Education Should Start in the Preclinical Years.” Academic MedicineAcademic Medicine 86: 4 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318201098f.
2010
Tsai, TC, N Barot, R Dalman, and F Mihm. 2010. “Combined endovascular and open operative approach for mycotic carotid aneurysm.” J Vasc SurgJ Vasc SurgJ Vasc Surg 51: 1514-6. Abstract
Mycotic aneurysms of the extracranial carotid artery are rare and warrant surgical intervention. Management involves open and endovascular approaches. We report the case of a 67-year-old woman with an Escherichia coli soft-tissue infection of the right retropharyngeal space and subsequent mycotic carotid aneurysm and thrombosis of the internal jugular vein. The patient presented with a pulsatile mass and right middle cerebral artery stroke. Our surgical management involved coil embolization of the aneurysm to provide for vascular control, with resection of the common carotid artery, internal carotid artery, and extracranial carotid artery branches, along with the internal jugular vein.
Tsai, TC. 2010. “Food crisis no longer taboo in Niger.” LancetLancetLancet 375: 1151-2.
Tsai, TC, JD Bohnen, and S Hafiz. 2010. “Instruction in quality improvement and patient safety must be a priority in medical students' education.” Acad MedAcad MedAcad Med 85: 743-4.
Fan, AP, TC Tsai, TP Su, RO Kosik, DE Morisky, CH Chen, WJ Shih, and CH Lee. 2010. “A longitudinal study of the impact of interviews on medical school admissions in Taiwan.” Eval Health ProfEval Health ProfEval Health Prof 33: 140-63. Abstract
Medical schools in Taiwan have recently adopted the U.S. medical school admissions model by incorporating interviews into the selection process. The objective of this study was to investigate factors that contribute to successful medical school applications through the national entrance examination and interview admission routes. The sample consisted of survey data from five entry cohorts of medical students admitted to the National Yang-Ming University Faculty of Medicine from 2003 to 2007. Of the 513 students, 62% were admitted through the traditional national entrance examination route and 38% were admitted early after achieving a threshold score on the composite national exam followed by a structured interview. Students admitted through the interview route were more likely to be female, with an odds ratio (OR) of 2.17 (1.20-3.93). Maternal education level was an independent predictor of both early admission through a successful interview and higher medical school grade point average (GPA). Students admitted through the interview route had a 3.20 point higher first-year medical school GPA (p < .001) as determined by regression analyses. Those students who were admitted via interview did not have significantly different personality traits than those admitted through the traditional route. This study calls into question the ability of an admissions interview to select for noncognitive character traits.
Tsai, TC, JH Rosing, and JA Norton. 2010. “Role of factor VII in correcting dilutional coagulopathy and reducing re-operations for bleeding following non-traumatic major gastrointestinal and abdominal surgery.” J Gastrointest SurgJ Gastrointest SurgJ Gastrointest Surg 14: 1311-8. Abstract
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of rfVIIa in reducing blood product requirements and re-operation for postoperative bleeding after major abdominal surgery. BACKGROUND: Hemorrhage is a significant complication after major gastrointestinal and abdominal surgery. Clinically significant bleeding can lead to shock, transfusion of blood products, and re-operation. Recent reports suggest that activated rfVIIa may be effective in correcting coagulopathy and decreasing the need for re-operation. METHODS: This study was a retrospective review over a 4-year period of 17 consecutive bleeding postoperative patients who received rfVIIa to control hemorrhage and avoid re-operation. Outcome measures were blood and clotting factor transfusions, deaths, thromboembolic complications, and number of re-operations for bleeding. RESULTS: Seventeen patients with postoperative hemorrhage following major abdominal gastrointestinal surgery (nine pancreas, four sarcoma, two gastric, one carcinoid, and one fistula) were treated with rfVIIa. In these 17 patients, rfVIIa was administered for 18 episodes of bleeding (dose 2,400-9,600 mcg, 29.8-100.8 mcg/kg). Transfusion requirement of pRBC and FFP were each significantly less than pre-rfVIIa. Out of the 18 episodes, bleeding was controlled in 17 (94%) without surgery, and only one patient returned to the operating room for hemorrhage. There were no deaths and two thrombotic complications. Coagulopathy was corrected by rfVIIa from 1.37 to 0.96 (p < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: Use of rfVIIa in resuscitation for hemorrhage after non-traumatic major abdominal and gastrointestinal surgery can correct dilutional coagulopathy, reducing blood product requirements and need for re-operation.
Tsai, TC. 2010. “Second chance for health reform in Colombia.” LancetLancetLancet 375: 109-10.
2009
Tsai, TC. 2009. “Public health and peace building in Nepal.” LancetLancetLancet 374: 515-6.
Riskin, DJ, TC Tsai, L Riskin, T Hernandez-Boussard, M Purtill, PM Maggio, DA Spain, and SI Brundage. 2009. “Massive transfusion protocols: the role of aggressive resuscitation versus product ratio in mortality reduction.” J Am Coll SurgJ Am Coll SurgJ Am Coll Surg 209: 198-205. Abstract
BACKGROUND: Exsanguinating hemorrhage necessitating massive blood product transfusion is associated with high mortality rates. Recent data suggest that altering the fresh frozen plasma to packed red blood cell ratio (FFP:PRBC) results in significant mortality reductions. Our purpose was to evaluate mortality and blood product use in the context of a newly initiated massive transfusion protocol (MTP). STUDY DESIGN: In July 2005, our American College of Surgeons-verified Level I trauma center implemented an MTP supporting a 1:1.5 FFP:PRBC ratio, improved communications, and enhanced systems flow to optimize rapid blood product availability. During the 4 years surrounding protocol implementation, we reviewed data on trauma patients directly admitted through the emergency department and requiring 10 or more units PRBCs during the first 24 hours. RESULTS: For the 2 years before and subsequent to MTP initiation, there were 4,223 and 4,414 trauma activations, of which 40 and 37 patients, respectively, met study criteria. The FFP:PRBC ratios were identical, at 1:1.8 and 1:1.8 (p = 0.97). Despite no change in FFP:PRBC ratio, mortality decreased from 45% to 19% (p = 0.02). Other significant findings included decreased mean time to first product: cross-matched RBCs (115 to 71 minutes; p = 0.02), FFP (254 to 169 minutes; p = 0.04), and platelets (418 to 241 minutes; p = 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: MTP implementation is associated with mortality reductions that have been ascribed principally to increased plasma use and decreased FFP:PRBC ratios. Our study found a significant reduction in mortality despite unchanged FFP:PRBC ratios and equivalent overall mean numbers of transfusions. Our data underscore the importance of expeditious product availability and emphasize that massive transfusion is a complex process in which product ratio and time to transfusion represent only the beginning of understanding.

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