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Process quality indicators for musculoskeletal injuries in the emergency department

Abstract

Objectives Measuring quality of care for musculoskeletal injuries presenting to the ED is important given their prevalence, variations in care, the associated morbidity and financial impacts and pressure to achieve time-based performance measures. Process quality indicators (QIs) provide a quantitative method to measure the actions taken during healthcare delivery. This study aimed to develop a set of process QIs to measure the quality of care for musculoskeletal injuries in the ED.

Methods A multiphase mixed-methods study was undertaken from 2015 to 2018, commencing with a systematic review to identify existing musculoskeletal QIs. This review, along with current evidence regarding musculoskeletal injury management in the ED, informed an expert panel who developed a preliminary set of process QIs. The preliminary set was field tested at eight EDs in Queensland, Australia, to determine the validity, reliability, feasibility and usefulness of each QI. Prospective observational data collection and retrospective chart audits were used to score the process QIs. These results were presented to the expert panel who determined a final QI set.

Results A total of 633 patients were recruited and 36 process QIs included in the final set. The QIs covered important domains of pain assessment and management, history taking and physical examination, appropriateness and timeliness of imaging, fracture management, mobility, patient information and discharge considerations including safety and referrals. The best performing QIs included the use of opioid sparing analgesics and avoiding prescription of ‘just in case’ opioids at discharge. The poorest performing QIs included the completion of spinal red flag questioning and referrals for fragility fractures.

Conclusion An evidence and best practice-based set of QIs has been developed to allow EDs to assess and quantify the quality of care for musculoskeletal presentations. This will allow EDs to compare and benchmark, leading to the optimisation of care for patients.

  • audit
  • emergency department
  • musculo-skeletal
  • performance improvement
  • quality
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