Background: Nurse care management programs for patients with chronic illness have been shown to be safe and effective.
Objective: To determine whether a telephone-mediated nurse care management program for heart failure reduced the rate of rehospitalization for heart failure and for all causes over a 1-year period.
Design: Randomized, controlled trial of usual care with nurse management versus usual care alone in patients hospitalized for heart failure from May 1998 through October 2001.
Setting: 5 northern California hospitals in a large health maintenance organization.
Patients: Of 2786 patients screened, 462 met clinical criteria for heart failure and were randomly assigned (228 to intervention and 234 to usual care).
Intervention: Nurse care management provided structured telephone surveillance and treatment for heart failure and coordination of patients' care with primary care physicians.
Measurements: Time to first rehospitalization for heart failure or for any cause and time to a combined end point of first rehospitalization, emergency department visit, or death.
Results: At 1 year, half of the patients had been rehospitalized at least once and 11% had died. Only one third of rehospitalizations were for heart failure. The rate of first rehospitalization for heart failure was similar in both groups (proportional hazard, 0.85 [95% CI, 0.46 to 1.57]). The rate of all-cause rehospitalization was similar (proportional hazard, 0.98 [CI, 0.76 to 1.27]).
Limitations: The findings of this study, conducted in a single health care system, may not be generalizable to other health care systems. The overall effect of the intervention was minor.
Conclusions: Among patients with heart failure at low risk on the basis of sociodemographic and medical attributes, nurse care management did not statistically significantly reduce rehospitalizations for heart failure or for any cause. Such programs may be less effective for patients at low risk than those at high risk.