American Heart Association Guidelines Save Lives

FRIDAY Oct. 9, 2009 -- Heart attack and heart failure patients are less likely to die if they're treated in hospitals that have received performance awards from the American Heart Association's Get With The Guidelines (GWTG) quality improvement program, a new study shows.

Researchers analyzed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data on 30-day survival for heart attack and heart failure patients treated at 3,909 hospitals, including 355 that received GWTG performance awards.

The heart failure and heart attack death rates were 11 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively, at GWTG award-winning hospitals, compared with 11.2 percent and 16.5 percent for hospitals without GWTG recognition, the researchers found.

"To put this into perspective, even though those appear to be small overall differences in survival, the percentages would lead to an additional 1,800 to 3,500 patients alive at 30 days if all hospitals could achieve the quality of the award-winning hospitals," study author Dr. Paul A. Heidenreich, a staff physician at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.

Better quality of care at GWTG award-winning hospitals explains 28 percent of the difference in heart failure deaths and 43 percent of the difference in heart attack deaths, according to the study authors.

The study appears in the October issue of the American Heart Journal.

The findings prove that GWTG hospitals outperform other hospitals, said Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, AHA president and medical director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

"In those facilities that have a strong approach to quality -- to the extent that they have received recognition for that commitment based on a fairly rigorous standard -- even seemingly slight improvements can translate to thousands of saved lives," Yancy said in the news release.

More information

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

Posted: October 2009


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