Cardiologists Help Lower Readmission Rates for Hospitalized Heart Failure Patients


Data reported at the American Heart Association’s scientific sessions in Los Angeles in November suggest that when a cardiologist, rather than a hospitalist, is the attending physician for a hospitalized heart failure patient, readmission is less likely. Casey M. Lawler, MD, FACC, a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute, says her center began establishing protocols to improve heart failure readmissions rates five years ago, after determining that many patients did not understand their diagnosis or treatment. “Thus, we became much more involved in post-discharge care,” including the phoning of discharged patients and follow-up with primary-care providers.

When the heart failure patients’ attending physicians were cardiologists, their readmission rate was 16%, versus 27.1% with hospitalists, even though their severity of illness was higher. Length of stay was similar for both groups and total mean costs were higher for the patients managed by cardiologists. “Although these results reveal that specialists have a positive impact on readmission rates, an overhaul to an entire healthcare system’s treatment of [heart failure] patients—from admission to post-discharge follow-up—is required to truly impact preventable readmissions,” Dr. Lawler asserted.

In the Minneapolis study, 65% of the 2,300 heart failure patients were managed by hospitalists, and 35% by cardiologists. A recent national survey of advanced heart failure programs found that cardiologists managed the care of acute HF patients more than 60 percent of the time.2


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