Aims: To evaluate efficacy of a pathway-based quality improvement intervention on appropriate prescribing of the low molecular weight heparin, enoxaparin, in patients with varying risk categories of acute coronary syndrome (ACS).
Methods: Rates of enoxaparin use retrospectively evaluated before and after pathway implementation at an intervention hospital were compared to concurrent control patients at a control hospital; both were community hospitals in south-east Queensland. The study population was a group of randomly selected patients (n = 439) admitted to study hospitals with a discharge diagnosis of chest pain, angina, or myocardial infarction, and stratified into high, intermediate, low-risk ACS or non-cardiac chest pain: 146 intervention patients (September-November 2003), 147 historical controls (August-December 2001) at the intervention hospital; 146 concurrent controls (September-November 2003) at the control hospital. Interventions were active implementation of a user-modified clinical pathway coupled with an iterative education programme to medical staff versus passive distribution of a similar pathway without user modification or targeted education. Outcome measures were rates of appropriate enoxaparin use in high-risk ACS patients and rates of inappropriate use in intermediate and low-risk patients.
Results: Appropriate use of enoxaparin in high-risk ACS patients was above 90% in all patient groups. Inappropriate use of enoxaparin was significantly reduced as a result of pathway use in intermediate risk (9% intervention patients vs 75% historical controls vs 45% concurrent controls) and low-risk patients (9% vs 62% vs 41%; P < 0.001 for all comparisons). Pathway use was associated with a 3.5-fold (95% CI: 1.3-9.1; P = 0.012) increase in appropriate use of enoxaparin across all patient groups.
Conclusion: Active implementation of an acute chest pain pathway combined with continuous education reduced inappropriate use of enoxaparin in patients presenting with intermediate or low-risk ACS.