Initiatives to reduce length of stay in acute hospital settings: a rapid synthesis of evidence relating to enhanced recovery programmes
Health Services and Delivery Research
BackgroundThere has been growing interest in the NHS over recent years in the use of enhanced recovery programmes for elective surgery to deliver productivity gains through reduced length of stay, fewer postoperative complications, reduced readmissions and improved patient outcomes.ObjectivesTo evaluate the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of enhanced recovery programmes for patients undergoing elective surgery in acute hospital settings. To identify and critically describe key
... ly describe key factors associated with successful adoption, implementation and sustainability of enhanced recovery programmes in UK settings. To summarise existing knowledge about patient experience of enhanced recovery programmes in UK settings.Data sourcesEight databases, including Database of Abstracts of Reviews and Effects, International Prospective of Systematic Reviews, NHS Economic Evaluation Database and MEDLINE, were searched from 1990 to March 2013 without language restrictions. Relevant reports and guidelines and reference lists of retrieved articles were scanned to identify additional studies.Review methodsSystematic reviews, randomised controlled trials (RCTs), economic evaluations, and UK NHS cost analysis studies were included if they evaluated the impact of enhanced recovery programmes on any health- and cost-related outcomes. Eligible studies included patients undergoing elective surgery in an acute hospital setting. Implementation case studies and surveys of patient experience in a UK setting were also eligible for inclusion. Quality assessment of systematic reviews, RCTs and economic evaluations was based on existing Centre for Reviews and Dissemination processes. All stages of the review process were performed by one researcher and checked by a second with discrepancies resolved by consensus. The type and range of evidence precluded meta-analysis and we therefore performed a narrative synthesis, differentiating between clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, implementation case studies and evidence on patient experience.ResultsSeventeen systematic reviews of varying quality were included in this report. Twelve additional RCTs were included; all were considered at high risk of bias. Most of the evidence focused on colorectal surgery. Fourteen innovation case studies and 15 implementation case studies undertaken in NHS settings were identified and provide descriptions of factors critical to the success of an enhanced recovery programme. Ten relevant economic evaluations were identified evaluating costs and outcomes over short time horizons. Despite the plethora of studies, robust evidence was sparse. Evidence for colorectal surgery suggests that enhanced recovery programmes may reduce hospital stays by 0.5–3.5 days compared with conventional care. There were no significant differences in reported readmission rates. Other surgical specialties showed greater variation in reported reductions in length of stay reflecting the limited evidence identified.LimitationsFindings relating to other clinical outcomes, cost-effectiveness, implementation and patient experience were hampered by a lack of robust evidence and poor reporting.ConclusionsThere is consistent, albeit limited, evidence that enhanced recovery programmes may reduce length of patient hospital stay without increasing readmission rates. The extent to which managers and clinicians considering implementing enhanced recovery programmes can realise reductions and cost savings will depend on length of stays achieved under their existing care pathway. RCTs comparing an enhanced recovery programme with conventional care continue to be conducted and published. Further single-centre RCTs of this kind are not a priority. Rather, what is needed is improved collection and reporting of how enhanced recovery programmes are implemented, resourced and experienced in NHS settings.FundingThe National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research programme.