Health Day - ONLINE EDITION

Heart Failure Survival May Get a Boost From Doctor's Visit

Follow-up care within a month of hospital discharge linked to better patient outcomes

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MONDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- One way for recently discharged heart failure patients to boost their survival odds is to see a doctor within the first month after leaving the hospital, a new study finds.

And the survival advantage is higher among patients who see their regular doctor rather than an unfamiliar one, according to the report in the Aug. 19 issue of the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

For the study, researchers looked at data on more than 24,000 heart failure patients aged 20 and older who had been discharged from hospitals in Alberta, Canada. Of those patients, 22 percent did not see a doctor within the first month, 69 percent saw their regular doctor, and 9 percent saw an unfamiliar doctor.

Patients who saw a doctor within a month of being discharged from hospital were 3 percent to 8 percent less likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital within three months to one year than those who did not see a doctor, according to Dr. Finlay McAlister, of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, and colleagues.

The investigators also found that patients who saw their regular doctor had a significantly lower risk of death or hospital readmission than those who saw an unfamiliar doctor.

The findings show "that physicians should strive to optimize continuity with their heart failure patients after discharge, and that strategies are needed in the health care system to ensure early follow-up after discharge with the patient's regular physician," the study authors concluded.

Heart failure is costly in terms of lives and money, the study authors explained in a journal news release. It is one of the most common causes of hospitalization, and has a high risk of readmission and early death. And in the United States and Canada, more than $20 billion per year is spent on patients who need to be readmitted to hospital within a month of being discharged.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart failure.

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