Congestive heart failure is the most common cause of hospitalization for the older population. A previous study demonstrated that rehospitalizations, undertaken by 30% to 50% of elderly patients, can be prevented with intensive multidisciplinary intervention. A pilot study was designed to determine whether a less intensive program with patient education materials, automated reminders for medication compliance, self-monitoring of daily weights and vital signs, and facilitated telephone communication with a nurse-monitor could reduce hospitalizations and whether this benefit could be extended to younger outpatients. Twenty-seven male patients (mean age 62 years) with New York Heart Association class II to IV congestive heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy underwent follow-up with an independent service, which provided the primary cardiologist with information concerning changes in vital signs or symptoms. The number of hospitalizations and hospital days during the mean value of 8.5 months in the program was compared patient by patient with the number during the equivalent period before entrance in the program. The number of hospitalizations for cardiovascular diagnoses and hospital days was reduced from 0.6 to 0.2 (p = 0.09) per patient year of follow-up and 7.8 to 0.7 days per patient per year (p < 0.05). Hospitalizations for all causes fell from 0.8 to 0.4 per patient per year (p = not significant) and 9.5 to 0.8 days per patient per year (p < 0.05). The greatest absolute and relative benefit was observed among patients with more severe congestive heart failure. The most frequent indication for intervention was an increase in weight, which was managed with adjustment of diuretic dosages. This preliminary experience suggests that close telephone monitoring by personnel from an independent service can prevent hospitalizations for heart failure among both recently discharged patients and ambulatory outpatients and among both elderly and middle-aged persons.