Aims: The aim of this study was to improve drug therapy for chronic heart failure (CHF) patients.
Methods and results: This prospective interventional pilot study was performed with cross-sectional comparative analysis before and after the intervention. Usual pharmacotherapy was observed for 8 months in two different outpatient healthcare settings in Berlin [11 family physicians from individual GP (IGP) practices and 12 working in a medical care centre (MCC)]. Medical care centres provide a novel structure for outpatient care and have recently been introduced in Germany. The subsequent intervention entailed implementation of heart failure guidelines via a computer-based reminder system, followed by renewed cross-sectional observation of prescription behaviour for 1 year. Family physicians recruited patients, assessed CHF severity according to the NYHA class, and referred patients for echocardiography. The study included 190 patients in the baseline phase and 209 in the intervention phase. Longitudinal follow-up was performed in 172 cases. Echocardiography was ordered by 94.6% of MCC-physicians and 79.9% of IGP's. Undermedication was observed in both settings. Guideline-based beta-blocker therapy was prescribed for 46.3% of patients (44.8% of IGPs and 48.5% of MCC-GPs). Prescription improved by 12.3% after the intervention. There were marked deficiencies in the prescription of aldosterone antagonists (35%) for severe heart failure, which improved to 44.2% after the intervention.
Conclusion: The problem of inadequate implementation of evidence-based therapy for CHF was partially overcome by using the reminder system, which provided participating physicians with short guideline recommendations during the intervention phase.