"While we don't really have an issue with our outcomes and things are generally running pretty smoothly, I think one of the themes in healthcare, in general, is always continuously circling back and trying to make things better."
For Colquhoun—who founded a new liver transplant program at the University of California, Davis, and served as the director of Los Angeles–based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's liver transplant program for 20 years—patient experience goes beyond convenience, since patients receiving a transplant are critically ill. "Making things go faster and efficiently, optimizing ongoing communication, and managing patient and family expectations is critical, since anyone needing a transplant is by definition facing a more or less life-threatening disease condition," he says. "All of these factors are of paramount and often urgent in importance."
One area Colquhoun is zeroing in on is streamlining the exhaustive testing process patients must endure prior to surgery. "As one might imagine, the process for evaluating an individual's candidacy for a transplant is extremely complex and requires not only an exceptional number of tests and studies, but also input from a surprising number of healthcare specialists," he says. "For the sickest patients, these tests and encounters happen in the hospital with some efficiency. However, for the 80% or so of patients who are not hospitalized, the sheer volume of tests and visits can be onerous," he says.
The logistics of coordinating all of this typically takes weeks for most large programs, given that patients who are sick with life-threatening diseases, are not feeling well, have to take days off of work and may have to travel great distances and rely on family members for transportation, says Colquhoun.
Colquhoun and his team want to reduce this process to a single day. It may sound like an insurmountable challenge, given that patients require everything from lab tests to MRIs as well as input from a dozen or more specialists and clinicians, but Colquhoun says he has done it before at other organizations and insists it can be done at USC. The plan will involve tight coordination with other clinicians and labs.