Pharmacists' role in the post-discharge management of patients with heart failure: a literature review

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2007 Aug;32(4):343-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2710.2007.00827.x.


Background and objective: The incidence of heart failure is increasing in developed countries. In the aged population, heart failure is a common cause of hospitalization and hospital readmission, which in conjunction with post-discharge care, impose a significant cost burden. Inappropriate medication management and drug-related problems have been identified as major contributors to hospital readmissions. In order to enhance the care and clinical outcomes, and reduce treatment costs, heart failure disease management programmes (DMPs) have been developed. It is recommended that these programmes adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, and pharmacists, with their understanding and knowledge of medication management, can play a vital role in the post-discharge care of heart failure patients. The aim of this literature review was to assess the role of pharmacists in the provision of post-charge services for heart failure patients.

Method: An extensive literature search was undertaken to identify published studies and review articles evaluating the benefits of an enhanced medication management service for patients with heart failure post-discharge.

Results: Seven studies were identified evaluating 'outpatient' or 'post-discharge' pharmacy services for patients with heart failure. In three studies, services were delivered prior to discharge with either subsequent telephone or home visit follow-up. Three studies involved the role of a pharmacist in a specialist heart failure outpatient clinic. One study focused on a home-based intervention. In six of these studies, positive outcomes, such as decreases in unplanned hospital readmissions, death rates and greater compliance and medication knowledge were demonstrated. One study did not show any difference in the number of hospitalizations between intervention and control groups. The quality of evidence of the randomized controlled trials was assessed using the Jadad scoring method. None of the studies achieved a score of more than 2, out of a maximum of 5, indicating the potential for bias.

Discussion: The DMPs carried out by pharmacists have contributed to positive patient outcomes, which has highlighted the value of extending the traditional roles of pharmacists from the provision of professional guidance to the delivery of continuity of care through a more holistic and direct approach.

Conclusion: This review has demonstrated the effectiveness of pharmacists' interventions to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with heart failure. However, there is an on-going need for the development and evaluation of pharmacy services for these patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Output, Low / mortality
  • Cardiac Output, Low / therapy*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Patient Discharge
  • Pharmaceutical Services / organization & administration
  • Pharmacists*
  • Professional Role*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic