Cardiologist Follow-Up Care Improves Heart Attack Survival Rates, NEJM Study Says
Heart attack survivors who are treated by a cardiologist after being released from the hospital receive more rehabilitative care and have lower mortality rates than patients who are cared for by internists or family practitioners, according to a study published in today's New England Journal of Medicine, AP/Nando Times reports. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School examined Medicare data from 35,520 patients age 65 and older from seven states who had been hospitalized for a heart attack in 1994 or 1995. According to the study, which was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, two years following hospitalization, 18.3% of patients who were being treated solely by a primary care doctor died, compared to 14.6% of patients under the care of a cardiologist only. Patients who met with cardiologists also underwent more medical procedures and received more rehabilitation than those who only saw a primary care physician. Patients who saw both cardiologists and primary care doctors following their hospitalization had an even lower death rate (AP/Nando Times, 11/20). The patients who did not see a cardiologist following hospitalization were more likely to be African-American, female or "very elderly" and were more likely than other patients to have other major chronic illnesses such as congestive heart failure, diabetes or lung disease (AHRQ release, 11/20). In an accompanying editorial, RAND researchers Nicole Lurie and Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin proposed that increased care by cardiologists or by medical "teams" could improve the "long-recognized disparities" in health care between African-American and white patients (AP/Nando Times, 11/20). The study's abstract is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.