Both randomized and nonrandomized controlled studies have linked congestive heart failure (CHF) case management (CM) to decreased readmissions and improved outcomes in mostly homogeneous settings. The objective of this randomized controlled trial was to test the effect of CHF CM on the 90-day readmission rate in a more heterogeneous setting.
A total of 287 patients admitted to the hospital with the primary or secondary diagnosis of CHF, left ventricular dysfunction of less than 40%, or radiologic evidence of pulmonary edema for which they underwent diuresis were randomized. The intervention consisted of 4 major components: early discharge planning, patient and family CHF education, 12 weeks of telephone follow-up, and promotion of optimal CHF medications.
The 90-day readmission rates were equal for the CM and usual care groups (37%). Total inpatient and outpatient median costs and readmission median cost were reduced 14% and 26%, respectively, for the intervention group. Patients in the CM group were more likely to be taking CHF medication at target doses, but dosages did not increase significantly throughout 12 weeks. Although both groups took their medications as prescribed equally well, the rest of the adherence to treatment plan was significantly better in the CM group. Subgroup analysis of patients who lived locally and saw a cardiologist showed a significant decrease in CHF readmissions for the intervention group (P = .03).
These results suggest several limitations to the generalizability of the CHF CM–improved outcome link in a heterogeneous setting. One explanation is that the lack of coordinated system supports and varied accessibility to care in an extended, nonnetworked physician setting limits the effectiveness of the CM.