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Collaborative care initiatives prove significant benefits in health care


University of Texas study finds a 9% decrease in length of hospital stays when collaborative care teams treat patients

Collaborative care teams lower hospital stay durations: ©Flamingo Images -

Collaborative care teams lower hospital stay durations: ©Flamingo Images -

A study conducted by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin reveals that collaborative care significantly enhances patient outcomes and reduces hospital stays. Published in IISE Transactions on Healthcare Systems Engineering, the study is the first of its kind to quantify the tangible benefits of a collaborative care model within a hospital setting.

The analysis focused on more than 7,000 patients discharged from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio's University Hospital between June 2014 and October 2016. As the collaborative care initiative was implemented midway through this period, researchers were able to capture its introduction and estimate its impact on patient care.

The study's key findings highlight measurable improvements in crucial patient and hospital outcomes:

  • A 9% decrease in the expected length of hospital stays.
  • A 27% increase in the likelihood of early discharge, occurring before 2 p.m., thereby facilitating bed turnover and enhancing patient throughput.

Professor Douglas Morrice, an expert in operations management at the McCombs School of Business and one of the study's lead authors, emphasized the significance of collaborative care in hospital settings. "The whole idea when you talk about collaborative care teams is that it's an extra coordination effort for hospitals. Is the effort worth it? Our conclusion is it is well worth it," Morrice stated.

In response to the rising costs in health care that impact both patients and providers, collaborative care has emerged as an effective strategy to manage chronic conditions. This approach involves employing teams of professionals with a unified approach, as opposed to individual doctors and practitioners who may not coordinate about a patient's care.

Morrice said: "The outcomes we're looking at are operational outcomes that are meaningful to both the hospital and the patient. When you have a team, you're getting much more expertise to improve outcomes."

Beyond the reduction in hospital stays, the study also observed positive trends in readmission rates, although not reaching statistical significance. Morrice noted, "It showed that by shortening the length of stay, the providers did not compromise care."

Patient surveys conducted as part of the study indicated high satisfaction levels among individuals cared for by collaborative care teams, reinforcing the positive impact on patient experience.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
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© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health