Background: Congestive heart failure is the most common indication for admission to the hospital among older adults. Behavioral factors, such as poor compliance with treatment, frequently contribute to exacerbations of heart failure, a fact suggesting that many admissions could be prevented.
Methods: We conducted a prospective, randomized trial of the effect of a nurse-directed, multidisciplinary intervention on rates of readmission within 90 days of hospital discharge, quality of life, and costs of care for high-risk patients 70 years of age or older who were hospitalized with congestive heart failure. The intervention consisted of comprehensive education of the patient and family, a prescribed diet, social-service consultation and planning for an early discharge, a review of medications, and intensive follow-up.
Results: Survival for 90 days without readmission, the primary outcome measure, was achieved in 91 of the 142 patients in the treatment group, as compared with 75 of the 140 patients in the control group, who received conventional care (P = 0.09). There were 94 readmissions in the control group and 53 in the treatment group (risk ratio, 0.56; P = 0.02). The number of readmissions for heart failure was reduced by 56.2 percent in the treatment group (54 vs. 24, P = 0.04), whereas the number of readmissions for other causes was reduced by 28.5 percent (40 vs. 29, P not significant). In the control group, 23 patients (16.4 percent) had more than one readmission, as compared with 9 patients (6.3 percent) in the treatment group (risk ratio, 0.39; P = 0.01). In a subgroup of 126 patients, quality-of-life scores at 90 days improved more from base line for patients in the treatment group (P = 0.001). Because of the reduction in hospital admissions, the overall cost of care was $460 less per patient in the treatment group.
Conclusions: A nurse-directed, multidisciplinary intervention can improve quality of life and reduce hospital use and medical costs for elderly patients with congestive heart failure.