Avoiding That Next Trip to the Hospital

Heart failure patients may cut return trips to the hospital if staff follows six steps

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) With heart failure, the heart is not pumping as well as it should. The condition often requires a hospital visit, but repeat visits can be avoided if certain steps are followed.

About a quarter of heart failure patients who have been hospitalized return to the hospital within a month.

Researchers have recently discovered that if hospital staff follows six procedural items, hospital readmissions could drop and millions of dollars could be saved.

"Make sure hospital staff have all your medical information."

Elizabeth Bradley, PhD, professor of public health and faculty director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and collaborators looked at nearly 600 hospital surveys, given between November 2010 and May 2011.

The surveys were from two nationwide programs aimed at reducing hospital readmissions for heart failure.

Based on the results, the researchers came up with six recommendations that could bring down these return visits to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.

The study authors wrote that readmissions could drop by as much as 2 percent if hospital personnel take these measures:

  1. Form partnerships with community doctors to address readmission issues.
  2. Collaborate with other hospitals to develop consistent strategies for reducing readmission.
  3. Have nurses supervise the coordination of medication plans.
  4. Schedule follow-up appointments before patients leave the hospital.
  5. Develop systems to forward discharge information to the patient’s primary care doctor.
  6. Contact patients on all test results received after they are discharged.

The researchers stressed that the strategy is most successful if all six steps are followed.

"A million people are hospitalized with heart failure each year and about 250,000 will be back in the hospital within a month," said Dr. Bradley. "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."

The researchers noted, however, that fewer than 30 percent of the hospitals followed most of the steps, and only 7 percent used all six.

"Hospitals and their patients would benefit from considering these six strategies and starting to implement them," said Dr. Bradley.

The American Heart Association recommends visiting its web page titled "Get With The Guidelines®—Heart Failure" for information on how to reduce readmission rates and lower costs.

This study was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Review Date: 
July 14, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013