Predictors of Incident Heart Failure Diagnosis Setting: Insights From the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System

JACC Heart Fail. 2023 Mar;11(3):347-358. doi: 10.1016/j.jchf.2022.11.013. Epub 2023 Feb 1.


Background: Early recognition of heart failure (HF) can reduce morbidity, yet HF is often diagnosed only after symptoms require urgent treatment.

Objectives: The authors sought to describe predictors of HF diagnosis in the acute care vs outpatient setting within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

Methods: The authors estimated whether incident HF diagnoses occurred in acute care (inpatient hospital or emergency department) vs outpatient settings within the VHA between 2014 and 2019. After excluding new-onset HF potentially caused by acute concurrent conditions, they identified sociodemographic and clinical variables associated with diagnosis setting and assessed variation across 130 VHA facilities using multivariable regression analysis.

Results: The authors identified 303,632 patients with new HF, with 160,454 (52.8%) diagnosed in acute care settings. In the prior year, 44% had HF symptoms and 11% had a natriuretic peptide tested, 88% of which were elevated. Patients with housing insecurity and high neighborhood social vulnerability had higher odds of acute care diagnosis (adjusted odds ratio: 1.22 [95% CI: 1.17-1.27] and 1.17 [95% CI: 1.14-1.21], respectively) adjusting for medical comorbidities. Better outpatient quality of care (blood pressure control and cholesterol and diabetes monitoring within the prior 2 years) predicted a lower odds of acute care diagnosis. Likelihood of acute care HF diagnosis varied from 41% to 68% across facilities after adjusting for patient-level risk factors.

Conclusions: Many first HF diagnoses occur in the acute care setting, especially among socioeconomically vulnerable populations. Better outpatient care was associated with lower rates of an acute care diagnosis. These findings highlight opportunities for timelier HF diagnosis that may improve patient outcomes.

Keywords: disparities; heart failure; quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Heart Failure* / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans*