Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in hospitalized patients. While numerous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown that the appropriate use of thromboprophylaxis in hospitalized patients at risk for VTE is safe, effective, and cost-effective, thromboprophylaxis remains underused or inappropriately used. Our previous review suggested that system-wide interventions, such as education, alerts, and multifaceted interventions were more effective at improving the prescribing of thromboprophylaxis than relying on individual providers' behaviors. However, 47 of the 55 included studies in our previous review were observational in design. Thus, an update to our systematic review, focused on the higher level of evidence of RCTs only, was warranted.
To assess the effects of system-wide interventions designed to increase the implementation of thromboprophylaxis and decrease the incidence of VTE in hospitalized adult medical and surgical patients at risk for VTE, focusing on RCTs only.
Our research librarian conducted a systematic literature search of MEDLINE Ovid, and subsequently translated it to CENTRAL, PubMed, Embase Ovid, BIOSIS Previews Ovid, CINAHL, Web of Science, the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE; in the Cochrane Library), NHS Economic Evaluation Database (EED; in the Cochrane Library), LILACS, and clinicaltrials.gov from inception to 7 January 2017. We also screened reference lists of relevant review articles. We identified 12,920 potentially relevant records.
We included all types of RCTs, with random or quasi-random methods of allocation of interventions, which either randomized individuals (e.g. parallel group, cross-over, or factorial design RCTs), or groups of individuals (cluster RCTs (CRTs)), which aimed to increase the use of prophylaxis or appropriate prophylaxis, or decrease the occurrence of VTE in hospitalized adult patients. We excluded observational studies, studies in which the intervention was simply distribution of published guidelines, and studies whose interventions were not clearly described. Studies could be in any language.
We collected data on the following outcomes: the number of participants who received prophylaxis or appropriate prophylaxis (as defined by study authors), the occurrence of any VTE (symptomatic or asymptomatic), mortality, and safety outcomes, such as bleeding. We categorized the interventions into alerts (computer or human alerts), multifaceted interventions (combination of interventions that could include an alert component), educational interventions (e.g. grand rounds, courses), and preprinted orders (written predefined orders completed by the physician on paper or electronically). We meta-analyzed data across RCTs using a random-effects model. For CRTs, we pooled effect estimates (risk difference (RD) and risk ratio (RR), with 95% confidence interval (CI), adjusted for clustering, when possible. We pooled results if three or more trials were available for a particular intervention. We assessed the certainty of the evidence according to the GRADE approach.
From the 12,920 records identified by our search, we included 13 RCTs (N = 35,997 participants) in our qualitative analysis and 11 RCTs (N = 33,207 participants) in our meta-analyses.
Alerts were associated with an increase in the proportion of participants who received prophylaxis (RD 21%, 95% CI 15% to 27%; three studies; 5057 participants; I² = 75%; low-certainty evidence). The substantial statistical heterogeneity may be in part explained by patient types, type of hospital, and type of alert. Subgroup analyses were not feasible due to the small number of studies included in the meta-analysis.Multifaceted interventions were associated with a small increase in the proportion of participants who received prophylaxis (cluster-adjusted RD 4%, 95% CI 2% to 6%; five studies; 9198 participants; I² = 0%; moderate-certainty evidence). Multifaceted interventions with an alert component were found to be more effective than multifaceted interventions that did not include an alert, although there were not enough studies to conduct a pooled analysis.
Alerts were associated with an increase in the proportion of participants who received appropriate prophylaxis (RD 16%, 95% CI 12% to 20%; three studies; 1820 participants; I² = 0; moderate-certainty evidence). Alerts were also associated with a reduction in the rate of symptomatic VTE at three months (RR 64%, 95% CI 47% to 86%; three studies; 5353 participants; I² = 15%; low-certainty evidence). Computer alerts were associated with a reduction in the rate of symptomatic VTE, although there were not enough studies to pool computer alerts and human alerts results separately.
We reviewed RCTs that implemented a variety of system-wide strategies aimed at improving thromboprophylaxis in hospitalized patients. We found increased prescription of prophylaxis associated with alerts and multifaceted interventions, and increased prescription of appropriate prophylaxis associated with alerts. While multifaceted interventions were found to be less effective than alerts, a multifaceted intervention with an alert was more effective than one without an alert. Alerts, particularly computer alerts, were associated with a reduction in symptomatic VTE at three months, although there were not enough studies to pool computer alerts and human alerts results separately.Our analysis was underpowered to assess the effect on mortality and safety outcomes, such as bleeding.The incomplete reporting of relevant study design features did not allow complete assessment of the certainty of the evidence. However, the certainty of the evidence for improvement in outcomes was judged to be better than for our previous review (low- to moderate-certainty evidence, compared to very low-certainty evidence for most outcomes). The results of our updated review will help physicians, hospital administrators, and policy makers make practical decisions about adopting specific system-wide measures to improve prescription of thromboprophylaxis, and ultimately prevent VTE in hospitalized patients.