A matched-pair cluster design study protocol to evaluate implementation of the Canadian C-spine rule in hospital emergency departments: Phase III
Physicians in Canadian emergency departments (EDs) annually treat 185,000 alert and stable trauma victims who are at risk for cervical spine (C-spine) injury. However, only 0.9% of these patients have suffered a cervical spine fracture. Current use of radiography is not efficient. The Canadian C-Spine Rule is designed to allow physicians to be more selective and accurate in ordering C-spine radiography, and to rapidly clear the C-spine without the need for radiography in many patients. The goal of this phase III study is to evaluate the effectiveness of an active strategy to implement the Canadian C-Spine Rule into physician practice. Specific objectives are to: 1) determine clinical impact, 2) determine sustainability, 3) evaluate performance, and 4) conduct an economic evaluation.
We propose a matched-pair cluster design study that compares outcomes during three consecutive 12-months "before," "after," and "decay" periods at six pairs of "intervention" and "control" sites. These 12 hospital ED sites will be stratified as "teaching" or "community" hospitals, matched according to baseline C-spine radiography ordering rates, and then allocated within each pair to either intervention or control groups. During the "after" period at the intervention sites, simple and inexpensive strategies will be employed to actively implement the Canadian C-Spine Rule. The following outcomes will be assessed: 1) measures of clinical impact, 2) performance of the Canadian C-Spine Rule, and 3) economic measures. During the 12-month "decay" period, implementation strategies will continue, allowing us to evaluate the sustainability of the effect. We estimate a sample size of 4,800 patients in each period in order to have adequate power to evaluate the main outcomes.
Phase I successfully derived the Canadian C-Spine Rule and phase II confirmed the accuracy and safety of the rule, hence, the potential for physicians to improve care. What remains unknown is the actual change in clinical behaviors that can be affected by implementation of the Canadian C-Spine Rule, and whether implementation can be achieved with simple and inexpensive measures. We believe that the Canadian C-Spine Rule has the potential to significantly reduce health care costs and improve the efficiency of patient flow in busy Canadian EDs.