Unexpected clinical outcomes following the implementation of a standardised order set for hepatic encephalopathy

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OBJECTIVE: We evaluated the effect on clinical outcomes of implementing a standardised inpatient order set for patients admitted with hepatic encephalopathy (HE).

METHODS: A retrospective review of patients with cirrhosis admitted with HE. Hospital admissions for HE for which the electronic health record (EHR) order set was used were compared with admissions where the order set was not used. Primary outcome was length of hospital stay (LOS). Secondary outcomes were 30-day readmissions, in-hospital complications, in-hospital and 90-day mortality.

RESULTS: There were 341 patients with 980 admissions over the study period: 263 patients with 736 admissions where the order set was implemented, and 78 patients with 244 admissions where the order set was not implemented. Median LOS was 4 days (IQR 3-8) in the order set group compared with 3 days (IQR 2-7) (p<0.001); incidence rate ratio 1.37 (95% CI 1.20 to 1.57), p<0.001. 30-day readmissions rate was 56% in the order set group compared with 40%, p=0.01; OR for readmission was 1.88 (95% CI 1.04 to 3.43), p=0.04. Hypokalaemia occurred in 46% of admissions with order set use compared with 36%, when the order set was not used; p=0.003, OR 1.72 (95% CI 1.22 to 2.43), p=0.002. No significant differences were seen for in-hospital mortality and 90-day mortality.

CONCLUSION: Implementation of an inpatient EHR order set for use in patients with HE was associated with unexpected clinical outcomes including increased LOS and readmissions. The convenience and advantages of standardisation of patient care should be balanced with a degree of individualisation, particularly in the care of medically complex patients. Furthermore, standardised processes should be evaluated frequently after implementation to assess for unintended consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere000621
JournalBMJ Open Gastroenterology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 17 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, grant UL1TR002494.

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


  • cirrhosis
  • hepatic encephalopathy
  • liver


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