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Darla Moore School of Business

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Enhancing processes, potentially saving lives

Professor and colleagues improve kidney transplant post-op care, prevent re-hospitalizations

Management science assistant professor Luv Sharma and his colleagues recently published their research analyzing process improvements to a kidney transplant team’s post-operating instructions and procedures that greatly reduced complications and re-admission rates for patients.

Published research:Sustainable process improvements: Evidence from intervention-based research” — Journal of Operations Management, March 2021

Why it matters:

  • Lapses in following post-op care instructions for kidney transplant recipients can result in added complications leading to readmissions, emergency visits and even loss of life. 
  • In 2014, over 17,000 patients received kidney transplants in the United States. The wait list for such transplants is longer than 100,000 with more than 3000 patients being added to the list every month. Post-transplant, kidney recipients have high occurrence of readmissions.
  • The post-op care instructions for kidney transplant recipients are becoming more complex with the aggressive use of marginal organs and with increasingly complicated transplant cases being accepted. In addition, with early discharges stemming from added pressures for reducing patient lengths of stay, the scope of patient responsibilities for self-care is also increasing.
  • Adhering to medication protocols, follow-up doctor visits, dietary modifications and infection prevention are all critical for post-op self-care.

Research design:

  • As part of their research on kidney transplant discharge processes, they looked at kidney transplants from 2001-2005 and found that more than 30 percent of transplant recipients were readmitted due to post-surgical complications.
  • intervention for the process redesign consisted of working with 32 caregivers, including frontline care providers (nurses, physicians and social workers), support staff and administrators at a large teaching hospital in the United States from 2013–2016. 

Learn more about their research.

Working in conjunction with caregivers and patients, we developed and incorporated specific directions, which we call countermeasures, on how teams working on process improvements can overcome the challenges in sustaining changes. Thus, our research offers preliminary evidence on ways to overcome these challenges and sustain the overall process improvement. The evidence presented in our research suggests that using these countermeasures not only help sustain process improvements but also result in greater patient satisfaction and better medical outcomes,” Sharma said.

About Luv Sharma:

  • Sharma joined the Moore School’s management science department in July 2016 as an assistant professor.
  • His research interests focus on understanding how information systems and other operational capabilities help develop an efficient and patient-centric health care delivery system. He is also interested in knowledge management and organizational learning issues and the role of analytics in influencing organizational competitiveness.
  • He teaches introduction to operations management at the undergraduate level and research seminars at the Ph.D. level.
  • Sharma earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology; he also earned master’s in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering, an MBA and a doctorate in operations management from Ohio State University.

Sharma’s research team included Gopesh Anand, an associate professor of business administration and the academic director for operations management for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Aravind Chandrasekaran, a professor of operations and associate dean for graduate programs and executive education for Ohio State University.

The research team recently received the Illinois Strategic Organizations Initiative Research Award, which recognizes high-quality scholarship at the intersection of strategy and organization. The paper was selected from a pool of research papers published over the past five years.

Ongoing research:

Within health care, Sharma is conducting research on topics related to operational excellence, establishing patient-centered care, the impact of insurance type on care delivery, drivers behind opioid prescriptions, impact of family engagement in care delivery outcomes and the impact of technology in operations.

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