Heart Patients Benefit From At-Home Care, Study Finds

MONDAY Sept. 28, 2009 -- Patients with worsening chronic heart failure may find "hospital-at-home" care is a good alternative to treatment in a traditional hospital, Italian researchers report.

An estimated 5 million North Americans suffer from chronic heart failure, a condition in which the heart struggles to pump blood to the body. In the United States, worsening chronic heart failure is the cause of more than 1 million hospital admissions a year, and patients have a 50 percent risk of readmission within six months of discharge, according to the authors of a study published in the Sept. 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

But the hospital is often dangerous in itself, the study authors noted.

In the study, Dr. Vittoria Tibaldi and colleagues at the University of Torino, San Giovanni Battista Hospital in Torino, Italy, enrolled patients aged 75 years or older with worsening chronic heart failure. Some were treated at a general medical ward, while others received hospital-at-home care supervised by a doctor.

After six months, 15 percent of the patients had died. There wasn't any difference in the death rate between the groups, but it took longer, on average, for those who were treated at home to be readmitted.

Those treated at home also appeared to improve in terms of depression, nutritional status and quality of life, the researchers found.

"Recent trends in health care favor alternatives to traditional acute care in hospitals. These trends include advancement in telehealth technologies and increased demand for treatment at home," Tibaldi and colleagues wrote. "Further development of hospital-at-home care will require additional research and dedicated resources to support dissemination."

Posted: September 2009


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