What we have here is a failure to communicate! Improving communication between tertiary to primary care for chronic heart failure patients

Intern Med J. 2009 Sep;39(9):595-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-5994.2008.01820.x. Epub 2008 Nov 3.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / epidemiology
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Hospitals, Urban / standards*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Male
  • Patient Discharge / standards*
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Retrospective Studies