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Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1998 Aug;158(2):418-23.

Outreach education to improve quality of rural ICU care. Results of a randomized trial.

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Health Policy and Administration, Washington State University, Spokane, Washington, USA.


This study tests whether an outreach educational program tailored to institutional specific patient care practices would improve the quality of care delivered to mechanically ventilated intensive care unit (ICU) patients in rural hospitals. The study was conducted as a randomized control trial using 20 rural Iowa hospitals as the unit of analysis. Twelve randomly selected hospitals received an outreach educational program. After review of the medical records of eligible patients, a multidisciplinary team of intensive care unit specialists from an academic medical center delivered an educational program with content specific to the findings and capacity of the hospital. The outcome measures included patient care processes, patient morbidity and mortality outcomes, and resource use. Results indicated that the outreach program significantly improved many patient care processes (lab work, nursing, dietary management, ventilator management, ventilator weaning). The program marginally reduced hospital ventilator days. Both total length of stay and ICU length of stay fell markedly in the intervention group (by an average of 3.2 and 2.1 d, respectively), while the control group fell only 0.6 and 0.3 d, respectively. However, these effects did not reach statistical significance. Unfortunately, the program had no detectable effects on the clinical outcomes of mortality or nosocomial events. We conclude that an outreach program of this type can effectively improve processes of care in rural ICUs. However, improving processes of care may not always translate into improvement of specific outcomes.

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