CHICAGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Five years after the Society for Vascular Surgery launched the Vascular Quality Initiative , participating centers are more likely to use chlorhexidine and have also cut their surgery times and reduced their transfusion rates, according to results presented at a symposium on vascular surgery sponsored by Northwestern University.

But more drastic have been the improvements once low-performing centers have made in these measures and others, Larry Kraiss, MD, of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, said in reporting an update on VQI. “If you look at centers that had a big change in not using chlorhexidine to using chlorhexidine, the reduction of surgical site infections [SSI] in that subgroup was actually pretty significant,” said Dr. Kraiss, chair of the governing council of the SVS Patient Safety Organization, which oversees VQI.

VQI identified a similar trend among length of stay after carotid endarterectomy (CEA) and endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) at centers that had been performing below the norm. VQI data showed that at 5 years, patients discharged on both statins and aspirin have better long-term survival than do patients discharged on neither, Dr. Kraiss said.

These pivotal improvements came about after the VQI distributed what it calls COPI reports – for Center Opportunity Profile for Improvement – to participating centers. Currently, 379 centers in 46 states and Ontario participate in VQI, feeding data into 12 different vascular procedure registries ranging from peripheral vascular interventions to lower-extremity amputations. As of Nov. 1, 2016, 330,400 procedures had been submitted to VQI.

Dr. Kraiss called the COPI report the “workhorse” of the VQI. “It can give participating centers insight into what they can do to improve outcomes,” he said. It is one of three types of reports VQI provides. The others are benchmarking reports that show the masked ratings for all participating centers but confidentially highlight the rating of the individual center receiving the report; and reports for individual providers.

The most recent readout of the SSI COPI report compared measures in two periods: 2011-2012 and 2013-2014. In those periods, overall use of chlorhexidine rose from 66.6% to 81.2%; transfusion rates of more than 2 units fell from 14.4% to 11.5%; the share of procedures lasting 220 minutes or more fell from 50.2% to 47.7%; and SSI rate overall fell from 3.4% to 3.1%. While the change in SSI was not statistically significant, Dr. Kraiss said the 17 centers that had a large increase in chlorhexidine use did see statistically significant declines in SSI.

The VQI also reported improvement in length of stay for CEA and EVAR before and after COPI. For CEA, length-of-stay rates of 2 days or more went from 10.6% to 9.6%, while for EVAR they went from 19.5% to 15.1%, Dr. Kraiss said. “Over a third of centers were able to reduce the length of stay after carotid endarterectomy, and over half were able to reduce their length of stay after EVAR,” he said.

VQI also showed a 5-year survival rate of 79% of patients discharged with both statin and aspirin therapy vs. 61% for patients discharged without ( J Vasc Surg. 2015;61[4]:1010-9 ). “This represents an opportunity to inform individual providers about how often they discharge patients on an aspirin and statin,” Dr. Kraiss said. Provider-targeted reports show how individual physicians rate in their region and nationwide.

VQI is more than a registry, Dr. Kraiss said; it’s also organized into 17 regional quality groups that provide surgeons a safe place to discuss VQI data and how to use that to encourage best practices. “There’s no risk of compromising or making the information identifiable,” he said. “It’s a matter of just getting together and trying to share best practices in a relatively informal environment, and hopefully through that drive quality improvement.

Other benefits of participating in VQI are that it can help surgeons comply with requirements for Medicare’s Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). VQI also offers opportunities to enroll in industry-sponsored clinical trials, which can help defray the cost of VQI participation, he said.

Dr. Kraiss had no relevant financial relationships to disclose.