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A Multidisciplinary Intervention to Prevent the Readmission of Elderly Patients with Congestive Heart Failure

A Multidisciplinary Intervention to Prevent the Readmission of Elderly Patients with Congestive Heart Failure
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    1190THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINENov. 2, 1995   A MULTIDISCIPLINARY INTERVENTION TO PREVENT THE READMISSION OF ELDERLY PATIENTS WITH CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE  M   ICHAEL  W. R   ICH  , M.D., V     ALERIE  B   ECKHAM  , R.N., C    AROL  W   ITTENBERG  , R.N., C   HARLES  L. L   EVEN  , P   H  .D., K    ENNETH  E. F   REEDLAND  , P   H  .D.,  AND  R   OBERT  M. C    ARNEY  , P   H  .D.  Abstract  Background.  Congestive heart failure is themost common indication for admission to the hospitalamong older adults. Behavioral factors, such as poorcompliance with treatment, frequently contribute to exac-erbations of heart failure, a fact suggesting that many ad-missions could be prevented.  Methods.  We conducted a prospective, randomizedtrial of the effect of a nurse-directed, multidisciplinaryintervention on rates of readmission within 90 days ofhospital discharge, quality of life, and costs of care forhigh-risk patients 70 years of age or older who were hos-pitalized with congestive heart failure. The interventionconsisted of comprehensive education of the patient andfamily, a prescribed diet, social-service consultation andplanning for an early discharge, a review of medications,and intensive follow-up.  Results.  Survival for 90 days without readmission,the primary outcome measure, was achieved in 91 ofthe 142 patients in the treatment group, as comparedwith 75 of the 140 patients in the control group, who re-ceived conventional care (P    0.09). There were 94 re-admissions in the control group and 53 in the treatmentgroup (risk ratio, 0.56; P    0.02). The number of re-admissions for heart failure was reduced by 56.2 per-cent in the treatment group (54, vs. 24 in the controlgroup; P    0.04), whereas the number of readmissionsfor other causes was reduced by 28.5 percent (40 vs.29, P not significant). In the control group, 23 patients(16.4 percent) had more than one readmission, as com-pared with 9 patients (6.3 percent) in the treatmentgroup (risk ratio, 0.39; P    0.01). In a subgroup of 126patients, quality-of-life scores at 90 days improvedmore from base line for patients in the treatment group(P    0.001). Because of the reduction in hospital admis-sions, the overall cost of care was $460 less per patientin the treatment group.  Conclusions.  A nurse-directed, multidisciplinary in-tervention can improve quality of life and reduce hospitaluse and medical costs for elderly patients with conges-tive heart failure. (N Engl J Med 1995;333:1190-5.)  From the Geriatric Cardiology Section, Division of Cardiology (M.W.R., V.B.,C.W.), and the Behavioral Medicine Section, Department of Psychiatry (K.E.F.,R.M.C.), Jewish Hospital at Washington University; and the Department of Eco-nomics, Washington University (C.L.L.) — both in St. Louis. Address reprint re-quests to Dr. Rich at Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, 216 S. Kingshighway, St. Lou-is, MO 63110.Supported by a grant (HL44739) from the National Heart, Lung, and BloodInstitute.   C  ONGESTIVE heart failure is the most commonindication for hospitalization among adults over65 years of age,   1  and the rate of admission to treat thiscondition has increased progressively over the pasttwo decades.   2  Elderly patients with heart failure arealso at increased risk for early rehospitalization, withrates of readmission ranging from 29 to 47 percent within three to six months of the initial discharge.   3-5  Moreover, behavioral factors, such as noncompliance with medications and diet, and social factors, such associal isolation, frequently contribute to early readmis-sions, suggesting that many such readmissions couldbe prevented.   5,6  We hypothesized that a multidisciplinary approachto treatment could significantly reduce the rate of re-admission for elderly patients at high risk, and we con-ducted a feasibility study to evaluate this hypothesis.   7  In that study 98 patients 70 years of age or older who were hospitalized with congestive heart failure wererandomly assigned to receive either the study treat-ment or conventional care. During a 90-day period of follow-up, the treatment group had a 27 percent reduc-tion in the readmission rate, but the reduction was notstatistically significant.   7 We then conducted a prospec-tive, randomized trial of 282 patients, described in thisreport, to assess the effect of the intervention on therate of readmission, quality of life, and the overall costof medical care.  M   ETHODS  Patients   All patients 70 years of age or older who were admitted to themedical wards of Jewish Hospital at Washington University MedicalCenter were screened for congestive heart failure. For a diagnosis of heart failure, either definite radiographic evidence of pulmonary con-gestion or typical symptoms and signs of heart failure in conjunction with definite clinical improvement in response to diuresis were re-quired. Patients with confirmed heart failure were eligible to partici-pate in the study if they had at least one of the following risk factorsfor early readmission, as determined in a previous study   5  : prior his-tory of heart failure, four or more hospitalizations for any reason inthe preceding five years, or congestive heart failure precipitated by either an acute myocardial infarction or uncontrolled hypertension(systolic blood pressure   200 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure    105 mm Hg). The criteria for exclusion from the study includedresidence outside the catchment area of Jewish Hospital Home Care,planned discharge to a long-term-care facility, severe dementia orother serious psychiatric illness, anticipated survival of less thanthree months, refusal to participate by either the patient or the phy-sician, and logistic or discretionary reasons (including participationin the pilot study   7  ). The study was approved by the institutional re- view board of Jewish Hospital, and all patients provided informedconsent. A total of 1306 patients 70 or more years of age met the criteriafor congestive heart failure from July 1990 through June 1994. Among them, 391 (29.9 percent) were excluded because they had norisk factors for early readmission. An additional 633 patients wereexcluded because they lived outside the catchment area (141 pa-tients), because discharge to a long-term-care facility was planned(114), because they had dementia or psychiatric illness (19) or termi-nal illness (68), because the patient or the physician decided not toparticipate (116), or for logistic or discretionary reasons (175), mostcommonly the inability to complete enrollment before discharge.  Randomization and Study Treatment  The patients underwent blinded randomization with the use of acomputer-generated list of random numbers immediately after con-senting to participate in the study. Neither the patient nor the mem-bers of the study team were aware of the treatment assignment untilafter randomization.   Downloaded from at UNIVERSITEIT MAASTRICHT on July 13, 2004.Copyright © 1995 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.     Vol.333No.18PREVENTING THE READMISSION OF PATIENTS WITH CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE1191 The study treatment consisted of intensive education about con-gestive heart failure and its treatment by an experienced cardiovas-cular research nurse, using a teaching booklet developed by the study investigators for geriatric patients with heart failure; individualizeddietary assessment and instruction given by a registered dietitian with reinforcement by the study nurse; consultation with social-serv-ice personnel to facilitate discharge planning and care after dis-charge; an analysis of medications by a geriatric cardiologist whomade specific recommendations to eliminate unnecessary medica-tions and simplify the overall regimen; and intensive follow-up afterdischarge through the hospital’s home care services, supplementedby individualized home visits and telephone contact with the mem-bers of the study team. The principal goals of follow-up were to re-inforce the patient’s education, ensure compliance with medicationsand diet, and identify recurrent symptoms amenable to treatment onan outpatient basis. Additional details about the intervention havebeen published previously.  7  Patients assigned to conventional care (the control group) were el-igible to receive all standard treatments and services ordered by theirprimary physicians. In no case was standard or generally acceptedtherapy withheld.  Data Collection and Follow-up  Detailed data were collected at the time of enrollment, includingdemographic and psychosocial information; items pertaining to thepatient’s medical history, physical examination, and laboratory evaluation; results of cardiac tests; and pertinent information per-taining to the hospital course. All patients were followed for 90 daysafter discharge. For patients rehospitalized during follow-up, dataon the cause of readmission, the contributing factors, and informa-tion on the hospital course during readmission were obtained. Tominimize the burden placed on participating patients, data on qual-ity of life and costs were collected only for subgroups, as describedbelow.  Quality of Life  Quality of life as the patient perceived it was assessed at base lineand at three months in 126 patients with the Chronic Heart FailureQuestionnaire.  8  This instrument consists of 20 items that the patient was asked to rate on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 7 (highest); there arefour subscales: dyspnea (containing 4 items), fatigue (5 items), emo-tional function (7 items), and environmental mastery (4 items). Pre- vious studies have shown this questionnaire to be responsive to qual-ity-of-life changes in patients with heart failure.  8,9  Cost Analysis  Detailed data on all medical costs and costs for care givers werecollected prospectively, with cost logs, for 57 patients during the fi-nal year of the study. The logs were checked regularly for accuracy by study nurses. Logs were also maintained by the study personnelto determine the cost of the treatment, exclusive of costs for re-search and monitoring (i.e., screening, randomization, data collec-tion, and follow-up). An hourly rate of $20 was chosen as the costof nursing time (including direct contact with the patient, travel,and telephone calls), as well as for time spent by the dietitian, social worker, and home care team. An hourly rate of $6 was chosen asthe cost of time spent by unpaid care givers (i.e., spouses, family,and friends). Costs for hospital admissions were based on the al-lowed reimbursements provided according to standard codes foreach diagnosis-related group (DRG). To calculate the overall costof medical care during the 90-day follow-up period, the mean costof readmission for all patients in each group was added to the av-erage cost for nonhospital medical services and care givers, and, inthe treatment group, for the intervention. All costs were adjusted to1994 dollars.  Study End Points and Statistical Analysis   All the analyses were conducted according to the intention-to-treatprinciple, with survival for 90 days without readmission as the pri-mary, prespecified outcome measure. Secondary end points includedthe number of readmissions for any cause, the number of readmis-sions for congestive heart failure, the cumulative number of days of hospitalization during follow-up, quality-of-life scores, and the over-all cost of medical care.The two study groups were compared by Student’s t-test (two-tailed) for normally distributed continuous variables, by the chi-square test for discrete variables, and by the Wilcoxon rank-sum testfor categorical variables and continuous variables not normally dis-tributed. Stepwise proportional-hazards regression was used to iden-tify predictors of readmission within 90 days of discharge from thehospital. A backward, sequential survival analysis was performed with the Cox proportional-hazards model to determine whether thetreatment assignment was an independent predictor of readmissionafter adjustment for other relevant covariates.  10  Kaplan–Meier sur- vival curves were constructed to assess the probability of survival without readmission during the follow-up period. In both the Coxand the Kaplan–Meier analyses, data on patients who died withoutreadmission to the hospital were censored at the time of death. Riskratios and 95 percent confidence intervals were calculated, when ap-propriate, to compare outcomes between groups.  11   A P value of lessthan 0.05 was considered to indicate statistical significance in themajor comparisons between groups. The results are expressed asmeans   SD unless otherwise specified.  R    ESULTS  Base-Line Characteristics  The base-line characteristics of the study patientsare shown in Table 1. The median age of the patients was 79 years; 63 percent were women, and 45 percent were white (except for two Asians, the remainder wereblack). The two groups were well balanced with re-spect to most base-line characteristics, including New York Heart Association functional class and left ven-tricular ejection fraction. The patients in the treat-ment group were somewhat older and better educated,however. They also had higher heart rates on the base-line electrocardiogram and were more likely to haveundergone previous coronary-artery revascularization.It is important to note, however, that none of those variables had a significant effect on the rate of re-admission.  Event-free Survival   As Table 2 shows, 17 patients in the control group(12.1 percent) died during the study period, as com-pared with 13 patients in the treatment group (9.2 per-cent). Survival for 90 days without readmission, theprimary end point, occurred in 75 patients in the con-trol group (53.6 percent), as compared with 91 patientsin the treatment group (64.1 percent), but this differ-ence was not significant (absolute difference, 10.5 per-cent; 95 percent confidence interval,   0.9 to   21.9 per-cent; percent difference, 19.6 percent; P    0.09). Whenthe analysis was restricted to survivors of the initialhospitalization, however, a significant difference insurvival for 90 days without readmission was noted(54.3 percent in the control group vs. 66.9 percent inthe treatment group; 95 percent confidence interval forthe difference, 1.1 to 24.1 percent; P    0.04).  Readmissions   As Table 2 and Figure 1 show, 59 patients in the con-trol group (42.1 percent) had at least one readmissionduring follow-up, as compared with 41 patients in the Downloaded from at UNIVERSITEIT MAASTRICHT on July 13, 2004.Copyright © 1995 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.    1192THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINENov. 2, 1995  treatment group (28.9 percent; absolute reduction,13.2 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.1 to 24.3percent; P    0.03). Multiple readmissions were morefrequent in the control group (16.4 percent, vs. 6.3 per-cent in the treatment group; 95 percent confidence in-terval for the difference, 2.8 to 17.4 percent; P    0.01),so that the total number of readmissions during follow-up was reduced by 44.4 percent (P    0.02). Similarly,the total number of days of hospitalization was re-duced from 865 in the control group to 556 in thetreatment group, for a net reduction in hospital use of 35.7 percent (P    0.04).Overall, 78 of the 147 readmissions were for recur-rent heart failure (53.1 percent). In the control group,there were 54 readmissions due to heart failure, ascompared with only 24 in the treatment group (riskratio, 0.44; P    0.04). Readmissions for reasons otherthan heart failure were also more frequent in the con-trol group (40 vs. 29; risk ratio, 0.71), but this differ-ence was not significant.To determine whether assignment to the treatmentgroup was associated with a reduced rate of readmis-sion after adjustment for base-line differences betweengroups and other prognostic factors, we constructed aCox proportional-hazards model. As Table 3 shows, thestrongest independent predictors of readmission werehigher blood urea nitrogen level, higher systolic bloodpressure, higher serum sodium level, and presence of diabetes mellitus. After adjustment for these variablesas well as for other univariate predictors of readmis-sion, assignment to the control group remained a sig-nificant independent predictor of rehospitalization.  Quality of Life  Table 4 shows base-line and three-month scores onthe Chronic Heart Failure Questionnaire administeredto 126 patients. Although the quality of life improvedin both groups, there was significantly more improve-ment in the treatment group (22.1    20.8 vs. 11.3    16.4,P    0.001). In addition, quality of life improved consis-tently on each of the four subscales among the patientsreceiving the treatment (range, 52 percent to 195 per-cent). During the 90-day follow-up period, 11 patients were admitted to long-term care facilities (5 in thetreatment group and 6 in the control group).  Cost of Care  The average cost of the study intervention was $216per patient (Table 5). Two thirds of this amount wasspent on nursing time, representing an average of 7.2  *Plus–minus values are means   SD. Values followed by a number in parentheses are num-bers of patients and percentages of the group. NS denotes not significant, and NYHA NewYork Heart Association. To convert values for urea nitrogen to millimoles per liter, multiplyby 0.357; to convert values for creatinine to micromoles per liter, multiply by 88.4; to convertvalues for cholesterol to millimoles per liter, multiply by 0.02586.†Scored on a six-point scale.‡Denotes scores on the short version of the Blessed Dementia Scale, with higher scoresindicating more severe cognitive impairment.§Calculated as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters. ¶Data on ejection fraction were available for 222 patients (79 percent).  Table 1. Base-Line Characteristics of the Study Patients.  *  C   HARACTERISTIC  C   ONTROL  G   ROUP  (N    140)T   REATMENT  G   ROUP  (N    142)P V   ALUE  Age (yr)78.4    6.180.1    5.90.02Female sex83 (59)96 (68)NSNonwhite race82 (59)74 (52)NSMarried46 (33)53 (37)NSLiving alone62 (44)58 (41)NSEducation   8th grade67 (48)49 (35)0.03Hypertension111 (79)103 (73)NSDiabetes mellitus41 (29)39 (27)NSPrior congestive heart failure113 (81)105 (74)NSPrior myocardial infarction62 (44)59 (42)NSPrior revascularization18 (13)38 (27)0.005Ischemic cause of heart failure82 (59)77 (54)NSNYHA class2.4    1.12.4    1.0NSMedications takenDigoxinDiureticAngiotensin-converting–enzymeinhibitorNitratesBeta-blockerCalcium antagonist53 (38)117 (84)89 (64)100 (71)16 (11)58 (41)51 (36)119 (84)77 (54)90 (63)18 (13)53 (37)NSNSNSNSNSNSActivities-of-daily-living score†5.6    1.15.5    1.2NSShort Blessed score‡8.0    7.16.8    6.2NSBody-mass index§25.8    6.525.4    5.1NSSystolic blood pressure (mm Hg)157    35159    38NSHemoglobin (g/dl)11.9    1.912.3    1.8NSBlood urea nitrogen (mg/dl)30    1929    18NSCreatinine (mg/dl)1.8    1.01.6    0.8NSSodium (mmol/liter)139    4139    3NSAlbumin (g/dl)3.7    0.43.8    0.4NSCholesterol (mg/dl)190    55202    56NSElectrocardiographic measuresHeart rate (per min)Nonsinus rhythm85    1935 (25)91    2144 (31)0.02NSEjection fraction (%)¶41    1344    14NS  *Plus–minus values are means   SD. Values followed by a number in parentheses are num-bers of patients and percentages of the group. CHF denotes congestive heart failure, and NSnot significant.†Percent differences were calculated by dividing the absolute percent difference betweengroups by the control-group percentage.‡By the Wilcoxon rank-sum test.  Table 2. Readmission and Death within 90 Days of Initial Dis-charge from the Hospital.  *  V   ARIABLE  C   ONTROL  G   ROUP  (N    140)T   REATMENT  G   ROUP  (N    142)D   IFFERENCE  †(%)P V   ALUE  Patients readmitted(no. of times)    1    259 (42.1)23 (16.4)41 (28.9)9 (6.3)    31.5   of readmissionsFor CHFNot for CHF945440532429    44.4    56.2    28.50.02‡0.04‡NSHospital daysAllPer patient8656.2    11.45563.9    10.0    35.7    36.6Not applicable0.04‡Deaths from any causeIn hospitalAfter discharge17 (12.1)2 (1.4)15 (10.7)13 (9.2)6 (4.2)7 (4.9)    24.6——NSNSNSSurvival withoutreadmission75 (53.6)91 (64.1)    19.60.09Death withoutreadmission6 (4.3)10 (7.0)—NS Downloaded from at UNIVERSITEIT MAASTRICHT on July 13, 2004.Copyright © 1995 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.     Vol.333No.18PREVENTING THE READMISSION OF PATIENTS WITH CONGESTIVE HEART FAILURE1193  hours per patient. Other costs for medical care, ex-cluding those for readmissions, were similar betweenthe two study groups. However, care givers spent 33more minutes per patient per day attending to the pa-tients in the treatment group than to those in the con-trol group, for an estimated incremental cost of $336per patient. This extra time was anticipated and re-flected increased involvement by care givers in thehome. The costs of hospital readmissions were higherin the control group by an average of $1,058 per patient($3,236 vs. $2,178, P    0.03). As a result, the overallcost of care was higher in the control group by $460,or an average of $153 per patient per month.  D   ISCUSSION  The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research(AHCPR) recently published guidelines for the evalua-tion and care of patients with congestive heart failure. 12 These guidelines contain recommendations for patientand family counseling, dietary assessment, nursing andsocial-service interventions, support groups, and spe-cific measures to improve compliance. These recom-mendations, though logical, are based principally onexpert opinion, with few published data to verify theirefficacy. 12  The present study provides strong supportfor the AHCPR guidelines by demonstrating that amultidisciplinary intervention can significantly reducethe rate of readmission, improve the quality of life, anddecrease the overall cost of medical care. The benefitin terms of reducing hospital admissions and improvingquality of life was at least as great as that reported with vasodilator therapy, including treatment with angioten-sin-converting–enzyme inhibitors. 13-16  Moreover, in con-trast to treatment with vasodilators, the benefits of  which are associated with incremental increases incost, 17  the current intervention reduced costs.Several previous investigators have attempted to re-duce readmissions in various patient populations, 18-29 but except for our pilot study, 7  only one trial has spe-cifically been addressed to patients with heart failure. 28  Although the results of these studies were generally fa- vorable, the benefit was slight, perhaps reflecting thenature of the study populations and the interventionsused. We focused specifically on elderly patients withheart failure, who are known to be at high risk for ear-ly readmission, 3-5  and we developed a multidisciplinary intervention to address previously identified causes of rehospitalization. 5  Although our findings are generally concordant with earlier reports, 18-29  we believe that ourapproach of targeting a high-risk population and usinga more comprehensive intervention resulted in morefavorable outcomes. As expected, the principal effect of the intervention was in reducing the rate of readmission due to recur-rent heart failure; this rate declined by 56.2 percent.However, in the treatment group there were also fewerreadmissions for other causes. Although this difference was not statistically significant, it suggests that closefollow-up may provide additional benefits beyond sim-ply reducing the likelihood of exacerbations of heartfailure.This study has several limitations, the first of whichconcerns the generalizability of the results. A total of 1306 patients fulfilled the criteria for a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, but only 282 (21.6 percent) were randomized. The distinguishing characteristics of the randomized cohort included advanced age (medi-an, 79 years), a high prevalence of hypertension (75.9percent), moderate functional impairment, and rela-tively well preserved left ventricular systolic function.The applicability of our findings to other patients withheart failure requires further study. A second limitation is that because of the multidis-ciplinary nature of the intervention, we are unable tosay which elements were most important in reducingreadmission rates and improving the quality of life. Todo so is important from the perspective of cost, sincethe elimination of any unnecessary features could re-sult in further cost savings. To clarify this issue, addi-tional analyses were performed to assess compliance with medication, evaluate the review of medications,and determine the effects of the intervention on thepatients’ understanding of heart failure. Good compli-ance with medication, as assessed by pill counts 30days after discharge and defined as having been ac-complished when 80 percent of pills or more were tak- Figure 1. Kaplan–Meier Curves for the Probability of Not BeingReadmitted to the Hospital during the 90-Day Period ofFollow-up.Data on patients who died without being readmitted were cen-sored at the time of death.    P  r  o   b  a   b   i   l   i   t  y  o   f   N  o   t   B  e   i  n  g   R  e  a   d  m   i   t   t  e   d 1.000.900.800.700.600.500.400.300.200.100.000102030405060708090 Days after Initial Hospital Discharge TreatmentControlP      0.035 *Risk ratios were based on increments of 10 mg per deciliter (3.57 mmol per liter) for bloodurea nitrogen, 10 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure, and 1 mmol per liter for serum sodium. Table 3. Independent Predictors of Readmission, According tothe Cox Proportional-Hazards Model. V ARIABLE R ISK  R ATIO *95% C ONFIDENCE I NTERVAL P V ALUE Blood urea nitrogen1.171.06–1.280.001Systolic blood pressure0.900.84–0.960.003Serum sodium0.940.89–0.980.007Diabetes mellitus1.601.05–2.440.03Assignment to the treatment group0.670.45–0.990.05 Downloaded from at UNIVERSITEIT MAASTRICHT on July 13, 2004.Copyright © 1995 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.  1194THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINENov. 2, 1995 en correctly, was achieved in 82.5 percent of patientsin the treatment group as compared with 64.9 percentin the control group (P  0.02). With regard to thenumber of medications and dosing frequency, the only difference between groups was that the maximal num-ber of daily doses at discharge from the hospital wassignificantly lower in the treatment group (2.7  1.0, vs.3.0  0.9 in the control group; P  0.01), suggesting thatthe intervention had a slight effect in simplifying themedication regimen. Finally, on the basis of the resultsof an eight-item multiple-choice questionnaire, the pa-tients in the treatment group had a better understand-ing of heart failure than those in the control group,both at the time of discharge and at the three-monthfollow-up (P  0.001 for both). These findings suggestthat all components of the intervention were benefi-cial. Given the relatively low cost of the intervention($72 per patient per month), eliminating any of itscomponents would be unlikely to lower the cost sub-stantially. A third limitation is the relatively short duration of the follow-up period. We selected a 90-day follow-upinterval on the basis of previous studies showing thatthe period with the highest risk for readmission is thefirst 30 days after initial discharge and that readmis-sion rates decline substantially after 3 months. Thus, tomaximize cost effectiveness, the study was designedfor high-risk patients during the high-risk period.Nonetheless, we followed all patients for one year. Re-admission rates during the nine months after the dis-continuation of the study intervention have been simi-lar in the two groups (155 in the control group vs. 138in the treatment group), but readmissions for heartfailure have been less frequent in the treatment group(80 vs. 57, P  0.08). These data strongly suggest thatthe intervention did not simply postpone readmissions,but its beneficial effects also appeared to persist for upto one year. Thus, the long-term cost savings with theintervention may be even greater than our data in-dicate. Although we believe that the reduced rate of read-mission and the improved quality of life in our patients were direct consequences of the study intervention,two alternate hypotheses could explain our findings.First, the patients assigned to the control group may have received substandard care. As we noted in theMethods section, the patients in the control group weretreated by their private physicians, and no standardtherapy was withheld. When we analyzed the medica-tions taken at discharge, there were no differencesbetween the groups in the use of digoxin, diuretics, an-giotensin-converting–enzyme inhibitors, or other car-diovascular agents. Thus, differences in outcome can-not be attributed to differences in the medicationregimen. With regard to the use of other services, die-tary consultation was obtained by 49 percent of pa-tients in the control group; 46 percent were seen inconsultation by social-service personnel; and 39 per-cent had home care after discharge. These figures like-ly reflect current practice patterns for the use of theseservices in the United States. Another alternative explanation for our findings isthat the patients in the treatment group may have hadbetter outcomes simply because of the increased atten-tion and care they received. However, we consider itunlikely that the greater attention given to these pa-tients accounted for the wide differences in outcomes;instead, the focused nature of the intervention and thefact that it had multiple components provide the mostplausible explanations for our findings.In summary, this study demonstrates that a nurse-directed, multidisciplinary treatment strategy can sig-nificantly reduce hospital readmissions and improvethe quality of life for elderly patients with heart fail-ure. Widespread use of this intervention in caring forthe growing number of elderly patients hospitalized with heart failure could substantially reduce costs forhealth care. *Higher scores on the questionnaire indicate less disability. Table 4. Changes in Quality-of-Life Scores as Determined from the Chronic Heart Failure Questionnaire. * S UBSCALE C ONTROL  G ROUP  (N  59)T REATMENT  G ROUP  (N  67)D IFFERENCE P V ALUEBASE   LINE 90 DAYSCHANGEBASE   LINE 90 DAYSCHANGE mean  SD% All (total score)74.4  16.385.7  19.011.3  16.472.1  15.694.3  21.322.1  20.8  960.001Dyspnea8.1  7.711.9  10.03.8  5.49.0  7.915.8  12.86.8  7.9  790.01Fatigue14.1  5.616.8  5.52.7  6.112.9  5.318.3  6.35.4  5.5  1000.01Emotional function33.3  8.135.2  8.41.9  5.231.9  8.537.4  7.85.6  7.1  1950.001Environmental mastery18.9  4.821.7  4.62.9  5.018.3  5.822.7  4.94.4  5.3  520.10 *P  0.03 for the difference between groups. Table 5. Costs of Care for the Study Patients. C OMPONENT   OF  C ARE C ONTROL G ROUP T REATMENT G ROUP D IFFERENCE $ per patient  InterventionNot applicable216  216Care givers8281,164  336Other medical care1,2111,257  46Readmission3,2362,178  1,058*All5,2754,815  460 Downloaded from at UNIVERSITEIT MAASTRICHT on July 13, 2004.Copyright © 1995 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved.
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