Background. Clinical pathways are believed to improve patient care and reduce costs. Our hypothesis was that a gastric bypass pathway would decrease hospital resource utilization and cost of care without adversely affecting patient care. Methods. The prepathway (Pre) group consisted of 16 gastric bypasses (6/98 to 3/99). The postpathway (Post) group includes 12 gastric bypass procedures performed after institution of the clinical pathway (4/99 to 12/99). The impact of the clinical pathway on hospital length of stay (LOS) and resource utilization was investigated. A comparison of costs was performed using cost/charge ratios. Hospital readmissions and postoperative complications were also examined. Results. Despite increased obesity/medical acuity of the Post group, hospital LOS decreased by 3 days (P < 0.0001). Total hospital costs decreased by over $1600/case (>15%). Postpathway savings were greatest for room and board (34%), supplies (41%), and lab/radiology costs (50%). An increase in OR costs (22%) was observed in the Post group. This was due to an increase in anesthesia time (epidural catheter placement) and equipment costs (ultrasonic shears). Despite reductions in hospital LOS and resource utilization, the complication rate (Pre 12%, Post 16%) was similar and two patients in each group required brief readmission. Conclusions. A pathway for gastric bypass decreased hospital LOS and resource utilization. OR-related expenses account for 34-50% of total costs and must be monitored closely for surgical patients. The reduction in costs observed with this clinical pathway was not associated with an increase in postoperative complications or hospital readmission.
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