Transitional care interventions to prevent readmissions for persons with heart failure: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Ann Intern Med. 2014 Jun 3;160(11):774-84. doi: 10.7326/M14-0083.


Background: Nearly 25% of patients hospitalized with heart failure (HF) are readmitted within 30 days.

Purpose: To assess the efficacy, comparative effectiveness, and harms of transitional care interventions to reduce readmission and mortality rates for adults hospitalized with HF.

Data sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL,, and World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (1 January 1990 to late October 2013).

Study selection: Two reviewers independently selected randomized, controlled trials published in English reporting a readmission or mortality rate within 6 months of an index hospitalization.

Data extraction: One reviewer extracted data, and another checked accuracy. Two reviewers assessed risk of bias and graded strength of evidence (SOE).

Data synthesis: Forty-seven trials were included. Most enrolled adults with moderate to severe HF and a mean age of 70 years. Few trials reported 30-day readmission rates. At 30 days, a high-intensity home-visiting program reduced all-cause readmission and the composite end point (all-cause readmission or death; low SOE). Over 3 to 6 months, home-visiting programs and multidisciplinary heart failure (MDS-HF) clinic interventions reduced all-cause readmission (high SOE). Home-visiting programs reduced HF-specific readmission and the composite end point (moderate SOE). Structured telephone support (STS) interventions reduced HF-specific readmission (high SOE) but not all-cause readmissions (moderate SOE). Home-visiting programs, MDS-HF clinics, and STS interventions produced a mortality benefit. Neither telemonitoring nor primarily educational interventions reduced readmission or mortality rates.

Limitations: Few trials reported 30-day readmission rates. Usual care was heterogeneous and sometimes not adequately described.

Conclusion: Home-visiting programs and MDS-HF clinics reduced all-cause readmission and mortality; STS reduced HF-specific readmission and mortality. These interventions should receive the greatest consideration by systems or providers seeking to implement transitional care interventions for persons with HF.

Primary funding source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Heart Failure / mortality
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Home Care Services*
  • Humans
  • Patient Readmission*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Telemedicine*