Patients who receive home health care after they suffer a heart attack are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital in the month following discharge, a new study from the American Heart Association (AHA) has found.
Research from the study was presented this past weekend at AHA’s annual Quality of Care & Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions event.
The overarching discovery was that home health care is a “vital” tool to safely transition patients out of the hospital after a heart attack.
The secondary discovery, however, was just as important: just a small portion of patients currently receive in-home support.
In general, patients who receive care in the home after a heart attack are often older and sicker. That had previously made isolating the impact of in-home care a challenge.
Armed with access to the data of over 400,000 patients in the National Readmission Database, AHA was recently able to better analyze the effect that home health care had on readmissions.
“Home health care is something we use very frequently when discharging patients,” Muhammad Adil Sheikh, clinical assistant professor and hospitalist at the University of Michigan, told Home Health Care News. “So we wanted to look at if that actually had any meaningful impact on our [heart attack] patients, and what we were particularly interested in seeing is what impact it had on admissions.”
Overall, patients who received home health care after a heart attack were, on average, 17 years older than those who did not. They were also more likely to have underlying health issues, such as diabetes, heart failure, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure and vascular disease.
But after AHA researchers adjusted for these factors, they found that home health care recipients were at least 11% less likely to be readmitted to the hospital in the month following discharge.
“The big thing is identifying patient populations who would benefit most from home health care,” Sheikh said. “We saw that patients who are elderly, female, and people who have underlying health conditions … are the patients who would benefit the most from home health care.”
In terms of practical application, it might be worthwhile to dig into patients’ underlying health conditions and demographics, in addition to the other metrics that physical and occupational therapists already look at, Sheikh added.
The heart attack patient population has also fallen victim to the effects that COVID-19 has had on the health system at large.
When COVID-19-related anxieties rose, individuals with heart troubles were less likely to go to the hospital, leading to adverse health outcomes.
In-home care is a logical way to curb some of those negative outcomes.
Yet heart attack patients, as evidenced above, remain a mostly untapped client base for home health care agencies.