OBJECTIVE: Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is a relatively common reason for referral to orthopedic surgery, but most referred patients do not require bracing or surgery. We developed a quality improvement (QI) program within the Pediatric Physicians’ Organization at Children’s, an independent practice association affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital, to reduce unnecessary specialty referrals for AIS.
METHODS: The QI program consisted of physician education, decision support tools available at the point of care, and longitudinal feedback of data on physician referrals for AIS. Referral patterns in the 2-year postintervention period were tracked and compared with those of the 2-year preintervention period. Clinical characteristics of referred patients were compared through claims analysis and chart review.
RESULTS: Initial visits to orthopedic surgery for AIS declined from 5.1 to 4.1 per 1000 adolescents per year, a reduction of 20.4% (P = .01). Process control chart analysis showed a rapid change in referral patterns after the initiation of the program which was sustained over the 2-year postintervention period and demonstrated that 66 initial and 131 total AIS specialty visits were avoided as a result of the program.
CONCLUSIONS: A QI program consisting of physician education, decision support available at the point of care, and longitudinal data feedback led to a sustained reduction in unnecessary referrals for AIS. This program can serve as a model for other programs that seek to shift the locus of care from specialists to primary care providers.
- AIS —
- adolescent idiopathic scoliosis
- CPT —
- Current Procedural Terminology
- CUSUM —
- cumulative sum
- PCP —
- primary care provider
- PPOC —
- Pediatric Physicians’ Organization at Children’s
- QI —
- quality improvement
- Accepted October 25, 2012.
- Copyright © 2013 by the American Academy of Pediatrics