Value of prompt outpatient heart-failure care is affirmed

It certainly makes sense that patients with chronic conditions who see their primary care doctor soon after a hospitalization for that illness do better than people who delay those follow up visits. In Monday’s Health & Science Section my colleague Marie McCullough reports on a study out of Duke University that found confirmed that finding for heart failure patients.

While the patients who promptly see their family doctor or cardiologist after being hospitalized for heart failure are less likely to be readmitted within a month. Sadly, the Duke researchers examining Medicare data found that most patients did not go back to their doctors in the week after discharge and one in five of those were readmitted within 30-days.

So it seems a good idea to get to your doctor soon after a hospitalization for heart failure. Here’s a preview of the brief story:

A new study has found that heart-failure patients who see a doctor when they need to see a doctor fare better than those who don’t see a doctor.

OK, the study wasn’t quite that much of a no-brainer. Duke University researchers looked at Medicare records to assess rates of hospital admission and readmission for people with heart failure, who tend to be old and have multiple health problems.

Patients who followed up with a family doctor or cardiologist within a week of hospital discharge were less likely to wind up right back in the hospital within a month. Alas, most of the 30,000 patients didn’t get timely follow-up care, and 21 percent of them were readmitted within a month.

The finding highlights “a need for improvement in coordination of care from inpatient to outpatient settings,” says the study, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.