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To study the impact of a clinical care pathway and computerised order set on short-term post-operative outcomes for patients undergoing head and neck free tissue transfer.
In this retrospective cohort study, patients who underwent head and neck free tissue transfer by a single reconstructive surgeon between January 2007 and July 2009 were assigned to one of two cohorts based on the timing of their surgery: pre- or post-clinical care pathway implementation. Measured outcomes included peri-operative complications and mortality, length of hospital stay and costs, unplanned reoperations, and readmissions within 30 days of discharge.
The pre-clinical care pathway cohort included 81 patients and the post-clinical care pathway cohort comprised 46. Implementation of the clinical care pathway was associated with decreased variability in length of hospital stay (median (interquartile range) = 8 (6, 11) vs 7 (6, 9) days). The post-clinical care pathway cohort also had a significantly lower unplanned reoperation rate (15.2 vs 35.8 per cent, p = 0.01).
A clinical care pathway is a successful means of standardising and improving complex patient care. In this study, care pathway implementation in head and neck free tissue transfer patients improved efficiency and the quality of patient care.
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