Successful Use of Quality Improvement Methodology to Reduce Inpatient Length of Stay in Bronchiolitis Through Judicious Use of Intermittent Pulse Oximetry


The American Academy of Pediatrics 2014 bronchiolitis guidelines recommend against the routine use of continuous pulse oximetry (CPO) because it has been implicated in prolonging the length of stay (LOS). At our institution, infants admitted with bronchiolitis were monitored by using CPO during the entire hospital stay and intermittent desaturations <90% appeared to delay discharge. This quality improvement initiative was designed to reduce the LOS by decreasing the use of CPO in stable infants with nonsevere bronchiolitis.


The quality improvement project was implemented on the inpatient units of 2 community hospitals during the 2016 and 2017 bronchiolitis seasons. In cycle 1 (January 2016 to April 2016), the bronchiolitis pathway from the associated quaternary children’s hospital was used to (1) limit the use of CPO to patients with severe bronchiolitis and those at high risk for apnea or severe disease, (2) discontinue CPO as patients improved and stabilized, and (3) standardize discharge criteria. In cycle 2 (November 2016 to April 2017), the clinical pathway was adopted. The main outcome measure was LOS, measured from the time of the admission order to the time of the discharge order. Process measures included compliance with the interventions.


The project included 373 patients, 180 preintervention and 193 postintervention. The average LOS decreased by 20 hours, from 53 hours at baseline to 33 hours in cycle 2. No adverse events were noted, and there was no significant change in the number of emergency department revisits and readmissions within 7 days.


In our study, LOS was successfully reduced in bronchiolitis patients by using a clinical pathway that limited CPO to patients with severe bronchiolitis and those at risk for severe disease or apnea.

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