Initiating statistical process control to improve quality outcomes in colorectal surgery

Deborah S. Keller*, Jonah J. Stulberg, Justin K. Lawrence, Hoda Samia, Conor P. Delaney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Unexpected variations in postoperative length of stay (LOS) negatively impact resources and patient outcomes. Statistical process control (SPC) measures performance, evaluates productivity, and modifies processes for optimal performance. The goal of this study was to initiate SPC to identify LOS outliers and evaluate its feasibility to improve outcomes in colorectal surgery. Methods: Review of a prospective database identified colorectal procedures performed by a single surgeon. Patients were grouped into elective and emergent categories and then stratified by laparoscopic and open approaches. All followed a standardized enhanced recovery protocol. SPC was applied to identify outliers and evaluate causes within each group. Results: A total of 1294 cases were analyzed—83 % elective (n = 1074) and 17 % emergent (n = 220). Emergent cases were 70.5 % open and 29.5 % laparoscopic; elective cases were 36.8 % open and 63.2 % laparoscopic. All groups had a wide range in LOS. LOS outliers ranged from 8.6 % (elective laparoscopic) to 10.8 % (emergent laparoscopic). Evaluation of outliers demonstrated patient characteristics of higher ASA scores, longer operating times, ICU requirement, and temporary nursing at discharge. Outliers had higher postoperative complication rates in elective open (57.1 vs. 20.0 %) and elective lap groups (77.6 vs. 26.1 %). Outliers also had higher readmission rates for emergent open (11.4 vs. 5.4 %), emergent lap (14.3 vs. 9.2 %), and elective lap (32.8 vs. 6.9 %). Elective open outliers did not follow trends of longer LOS or higher reoperation rates. Conclusions: SPC is feasible and promising for improving colorectal surgery outcomes. SPC identified patient and process characteristics associated with increased LOS. SPC may allow real-time outlier identification, during quality improvement efforts, and reevaluation of outcomes after introducing process change. SPC has clinical implications for improving patient outcomes and resource utilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3559-3564
Number of pages6
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Healthcare outcomes
  • Healthcare utilization
  • Length of stay
  • Quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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