Background: Beta-blockers reduce mortality in patients with systolic chronic heart failure (CHF), yet prescription rates have remained low among primary care providers.
Objective: To determine the beta-blocker prescription rate among patients with systolic CHF at primary care Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics, its change over time; and to determine factors associated with nonprescription.
Design: Retrospective chart review.
Subjects: Seven hundred and forty-five patients with diagnostic codes for CHF followed in primary care clinics at 3 urban VA Medical Centers.
Measurements: Rate of beta-blocker prescription and comparison of patient characteristics between those prescribed versus those not prescribed beta-blockers.
Results: Only 368 (49%) had documented systolic CHF. Eighty-two percent (303/368) of these patients were prescribed a beta-blocker. The prescription rate rose steadily over 3 consecutive 2-year time periods. Patients with more severely depressed ejection fractions were more likely to be on a beta-blocker than patients with less severe disease. Independent predictors of nonprescription included chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, depression, and age. Patients under 65 years old were 12 times more likely to receive beta-blockers than those over 85.
Conclusion: Primary care providers at VA Medical Centers achieved high rates of beta-blocker prescription for CHF patients. Subgroups with relative contraindications had lower prescription rates and should be targeted for quality improvement initiatives.