Physician visits tied to lower risk of heart failure death

Heart failure is among the most significant health issues facing the senior community. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, about 500,000 Canadians have heart failure, but results of a new study suggest that taking quick action after leaving the hospital can drastically improve the chance of survival. The research, performed by scientists at the University of Alberta, found that patients who visit a physician within one month of leaving the hospital are much more likely to survive than those who do not, according to findings published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Raised risk of return trips
Hospital readmissions are a substantial concern in the health care community. Between the U.S. and Canada, approximately $20 billion is spent each year on patients who have to return to the hospital within 30 days of their initial visit. Furthermore, heart failure is the most common reason for such trips and also comes with a high risk of early death. To see whether visiting a physician had an impact, researchers looked at the health records of more than 24,700 people who had heart failure. Approximately 69 percent of the subjects saw a physician they were familiar with, while the remaining 31 percent either had no such visit or went to an unfamiliar doctor. Patients who visited a physician they were familiar with saw a much lower risk of premature death compared to the other two groups.

“Early follow-up was associated with a lower risk of death or urgent readmission over 6 months, compared with no visits in the first month after discharge, regardless of whether the follow-up was with familiar or unfamiliar physicians,” authors wrote. “However, when we examined follow-up patterns throughout the 6 months after discharge, continuity with a familiar physician was associated with a significantly lower risk of death or readmission than follow-up with an unfamiliar physician, with similar effect estimates for specialist and nonspecialist follow-up.”

Proactive approach
In addition to talking with a physician, heart failure patients can reduce their chances of readmission by taking some proactive steps, according to the Mayo Clinic. Along with common sense lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, lowering the consumption of salt, staying physically active can be particularly effective