“Show Me the Data”: A Recipe for Quality Improvement Success in an Academic Surgical Department

Thomas J. Birdas, Grace F. Rozycki, Gary L. Dunnington, Larry Stevens, Vanessa Liali, C. Max Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Surgeons in academic medical centers have traditionally taken a siloed approach to reducing postoperative complications. We initiated a project focusing on transparency and sharing of data to engage surgeons in collaborative quality improvement. Its key features were the development of a comprehensive department quality dashboard and the creation of the Clinical Operations Council that oversaw quality. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of those efforts. Study Design: We compared inpatient outcomes before and after our intervention, allowing one quarter as the diffusion period. The outcomes analyzed were: risk-adjusted length of stay, mortality, direct cost and unadjusted incidence of complications, and 30-day all-cause readmissions, as determined by the Vizient Clinical Database. We examined the outcomes of three groups: group 1 (surgery); group 2, all other surgical departments (other surgery); and group 3, all other patients (non-surgery). Two-tailed Student's t-test was used for analysis and p < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. Results: Group 1 demonstrated statistically significant improvements in mortality (p = 0.01), length of stay (p = 0.002), cost (p = 0.0001), and complications (p = 0.02), and the all-cause readmission rate was unchanged, resulting in mean decrease of 0.55 length of stay days and direct cost savings of $2,300 per surgical admission. The comparison groups had only modest decreases in some of the analyzed outcomes and an increase in complication rates. Conclusions: These data suggest that a collaborative, data-driven, and transparent approach to assessing the quality of surgical care can yield significant improvements in patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-373
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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