Background: The aims of this study were to determine the documentation of pharmacotherapy optimization goals in the discharge letters of patients with the principal diagnosis of chronic heart failure.
Methods: A retrospective practice audit of 212 patients discharged to the care of their local general practitioner from general medical units of a large tertiary hospital. Details of recommendations regarding ongoing pharmacological and non-pharmacological management were reviewed. The doses of medications on discharge were noted and whether they met current guidelines recommending titration of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and beta-blockers. Ongoing arrangements for specialist follow up were also reviewed.
Results: The mean age of patients whose letters were reviewed was 78.4 years (standard deviation +/- 8.6); 50% were men. Patients had an overall median of six comorbidities and eight regular medications on discharge. Mean length of stay for each admission was 6 days. Discharge letters were posted a median of 4 days after discharge, with 25% not posted at 10 days. No discharge letter was sent in 9.4% (20) of the cases. Only six (2.8%) letters had any recommendations regarding future titration of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and 6.6% (14) for beta-blockers. Recommendations for future non-pharmacological management, for example, diuretic action plans, regular weight monitoring and exercise plans were not found in the letters in this audit.
Conclusion: Hospital discharge is an opportunity to communicate management plans for treatment optimization effectively, and while this opportunity is spurned, implementation gaps in the management of cardiac failure will probably remain.