Cardiac Patient Engagement: Key to Reducing Heart Failure Readmission Rates Efforts

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While many different conditions fall under the umbrella of "heart disease," Americans suffer approximately 720,000 heart attacks annually. Over 380,000 people die from coronary heart disease each year, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women – more deadly than all forms of cancer combined, according to the Heart Foundation.

High Costs of Heart Disease

The financial cost of treating heart disease is receiving much attention as the Triple Aim Initiative continues to permeate the industry, transforming the healthcare landscape. In a recent article looking at heart failure readmission rate reduction efforts, some staggering statistics pointed out included:

  • Heart failure accounts for $38 billion of healthcare spending annually
  • Heart failure accounts for 43 percent of Medicare spending even though this patient population only makes up 14 percent of Medicare beneficiaries
  • Heart failure is the leading reason for readmission with the Medicare fee-for-service patient population

Because over 25 percent of patients hospitalized for heart failure will be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, the focus now shifts to implementing programs, policies, and procedures to keep patients with congestive heart failure out of the hospital and educated, engaged, and invested in managing their own health at home.

Patients Value Engagement

Two recent Harris Polls bode well for heart failure readmission rate reduction efforts. Given the tools and access to information, patients want to participate in their own healthcare in partnership with their physicians. In a 2014 study, a large percentage of Americans polled expressed a desire to be able to check their heartbeat, blood pressure, and physical activity on a smartphone or tablet. A 2012 poll showed how important email or phone communication with a doctor is to a patient outside of an appointment setting: 85 percent of patients rated contact high on their list for ensuring patient satisfaction.

A recent pilot study focused on patient engagement for cardiac patients published in April 2015 used the iGetBetter web-based system to involve patients in self-managing their heart failure. Ninety-five percent of the 20 participants "reported feeling more connected to their healthcare team and more confident in performing their care plan activities."

The three-month study was conducted at the outpatient clinic of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Heart Center's Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program. Patients used a web platform, interactive voice response telephone system, and wireless personal connected health devices to measure their weight, blood pressure, and heart rate each morning. Over 80 percent of the participants rated the web portal user-friendly and helpful, and 64 percent tracked their measurements daily.

Although the participant sample size was small, the study participants recorded fewer 30-day readmissions than the control group. Researchers found the "trends across all outcomes encouraging, and a future well-powered study could show vast savings in readmission costs."

FDA Forms Patient Engagement Committee

In September 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the formation of The Patient Engagement Advisory Committee to offer consultation designed to help patients understand how a disease or condition impacts their daily lives and explore the many healthcare treatment options available to them, including the complex category of medical devices and apps.

The Cardiovascular Roundtable offers a study to members with "15 proven tactics for developing and leveraging a patient-centered care infrastructure that supports long-term patient engagement." The effort puts the emphasis on placing cardiac patients and their families at the center of the care model in an effort to inspire greater patient engagement in managing their own health.

Greg Stock, CEO of Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, shows just how successful even a small, regional facility can be when it implements an across-the-board patient-centered vision. The use of analytics helped the hospital pinpoint areas needing improvement, and then it set the goal of achieving patient satisfaction excellence across all categories. Patients feel safe at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center and enjoy a higher level of trust with their medical team. By keeping the patient-focused, high satisfaction visions a consistent and vital one, the hospital believes that it will remain competitive, able to thrive in the coming months of continued governmental regulations and decreased reimbursements:

"If we can excel by providing great clinical care, great emotional care, and investing in great technology and processes, I feel like we will be able to adapt and thrive to whatever else comes our way."

Dedicating time to heart failure readmission rate reduction efforts is no small task and an ongoing process that requires much focus. As organizations look to better their outcomes and reduce remittance, patient satisfaction levels will rise and overall costs involved in running the facilities will decrease dramatically. Adaptation will lead to a thriving business, even in healthcare.