Clinical Pathways as Instruments for Risk and Cost Management in Hospitals - A Discussion Paper

  •  Tobias Romeyke    
  •  Harald Stummer    


Introduction: The distinctive characteristics of the German health system are medical progress and financial pressure—and this is especially true of the hospitals. These challenges must be met by strategic management instruments for quality assurance, and by reducing costs. Purpose: This article presents the instrument “clinical pathway” (also known as “clinical treatment pathway”) and describes the possibilities it offers, both for quality assurance and risk management, and for cost reduction. The clinical pathway presented here will be that for “multimodal pain therapy”, as used in the context of acute inpatient care in Germany. Methods: A general presentation of the risks in hospital is followed by consideration of the risks associated with core processes. A comprehensive total cost analysis is performed for those patients who meet the pathway entry criteria and who fulfil the requirements for the structure of care provided within multimodal pain therapy. Discussion and Conclusion: Multimodal pain therapy places high demands on the structural, procedural and outcome quality of the medical, nursing and therapeutic services provided, and these demands are reflected in high costs for the provision of this care. The treatment process involves many different professional groups. These complex interfaces can potentially generate risks, which can lead to the possibility of legal liability. A clinical pathway must structure the core process and then combine elements of quality assurance in order to optimise patient care and minimise risk. The examination of costs reveals significant potential savings (patients with clinical pathway: EUR 3086±212; patients without clinical pathway: EUR 3774±460; Mann-Whitney U test; p<0.001). For the managers of a hospital, the clinical pathway represents a strategic management instrument that can serve for continual cost control and cost reduction, and can contribute in the form of quality assurance towards a transparent provision of services.

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