Telephone Calls Can Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates, Medical Costs for Heart Failure Patients, Study Finds
Simple intervention, such as follow-up telephone calls from nurses, can reduce hospital readmission rates for heart failure patients and "significantly" reduce their medical costs, according to a new study conducted by San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. In the study, which appeared in yesterday's issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers tracked 358 heart failure patients for six months after they were discharged from two hospitals in the Sharp Healthcare system. One group of patients received "usual follow-up care," and a second group received "printed educational material" and an average of 17 telephone calls from nurses "checking on their health and offering advice." The telephone calls began within five days of patient discharge from the hospitals. Researchers found that patients who received the telephone calls had a 36% lower hospital readmission rate for heart failure than patients who received traditional follow-up care. Phone-call patients who were readmitted for heart failure had 46% fewer days in the hospital and spent 45% less on hospital costs than patients who did not receive the telephone calls. In addition, the study found that patients who received the telephone calls spent $1,000 less on acute care costs than patients who did not receive the telephone calls. Barbara Riegel of San Diego State University, a co-author of the study, said, "This savings is more than double the estimated $443 cost per patient for the six-month case-management intervention." She added, "I think the results are due to the phone calls, but what aspect of the calls caused the results, we can't be sure" (Tanner, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/26).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.