- Researchers have identified six steps hospital staff can do to help heart failure patients avoid another hospital stay in the 30 days after they’re discharged.
- The strategy is even more successful if all six steps are followed.
- Reducing heart failure readmissions could save millions of dollars.
Each step alone had some impact, but researchers discovered that if all six recommendations are followed, readmissions could drop as much as 2 percent. The study’s lead author said that may seem like a small number, but the significance is enormous.
“A million people are hospitalized with heart failure each year and about 250,000 will be back in the hospital within a month,” said Elizabeth H. Bradley, Ph.D., professor of public health and faculty director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. “If we could keep even 2 percent of them from coming back to the hospital, that could equal a savings of more than $100 million a year.”
Heart failure hospital readmissions are common and a major contributor to rising healthcare costs. Bradley and her team sought ways to cut that, and identified six steps as most effective:
- Forming partnerships with community doctors to address readmission issues.
- Collaborating with other hospitals to develop consistent strategies for reducing readmission.
- Having nurses supervise the coordination of medication plans.
- Scheduling follow-up appointments before patients leave the hospital.
- Developing systems to forward discharge information to the patient’s primary care doctor.
- Contacting patients on all test results received after they are discharged.
The researchers analyzed nearly 600 hospital surveys, given between November 2010 and May 2011, from two nationwide programs aimed at reducing hospital readmissions for heart failure.
Fewer than 30 percent of the hospitals followed most of the steps, and only 7 percent used all six.
“Our findings highlight the importance of the full system of care and the value of coordination among providers for addressing readmissions,” Bradley said. “Hospitals and their patients would benefit from considering these six strategies and starting to implement them.”
The American Heart Association is committed to reducing preventable heart failure readmissions by providing hospitals with educational support and resources through quality improvement programs, including Get With The Guidelines®-Heart Failure and Target: Heart Failure.
Co-authors are Leslie Curry, M.P.H., Ph.D.; Leora I. Horwitz, M.D., M.H.S.; Heather Sipsma, Ph.D.; Yongfei Wang, M.S.; Mary Norine Walsh, M.D.; Don Goldmann, M.D.; Neal White, M.D.; Ileana L. Piña, M.D., M.P.H. and Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
The Commonwealth Fund; the Center for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research at Yale University; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute on Aging; the American Federation for Aging Research; and the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at Yale University School of Medicine funded the study.
Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.
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