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Measures to Keep Heart Failure Patients From Returning to the Hospital

Measures to Keep Heart Failure Patients From Returning to the Hospital

FRIDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital teams can take six steps to help heart failure patients avoid another hospital stay within the month after they leave, a new study finds.

Each step alone reduces the risk, but following all six recommendations could lower readmissions by as much as 2 percent. That could have a huge impact on the health system, according to the lead author of the study appearing July 16 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

In heart failure, the heart can't pump well enough to keep up with its workload, and the body gets too little blood and oxygen to meet its needs.

"A million people are hospitalized with heart failure each year and about 250,000 will be back in the hospital within a month," Elizabeth Bradley, a professor of public health and faculty director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale University, said in a journal news release. "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."

She and her colleagues analyzed nearly 600 U.S. hospital surveys that were conducted between November 2010 and May 2011 for two nationwide programs meant to reduce hospital readmissions for heart failure patients.

The following six steps were identified as most effective:

  • Forming partnerships with community doctors to deal with readmission issues

  • Collaborating with other hospitals to create consistent strategies to reduce readmission

  • Having nurses supervise medication plan coordination

  • Scheduling follow-up appointments for patients before they leave the hospital

  • Creating systems to forward discharge information to patients' primary care doctors

  • Contacting patients on any test results received after they are discharged

Less than one-third of the hospitals followed most of the steps, and only 7 percent used all six, according to the study.

"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."

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart failure.

SOURCE: Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, news release, July 16, 2013

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