Healthcare News & Insights

Heart attacks: Boosting patients’ chances of survival

Heart attack survival rates are one of the key metrics the feds are watching for hospitals. And with new research suggesting that elderly patients are more likely to survive heart attacks when treated at some facilities instead of others, it’s important for hospitals to make sure they’re among the top performers with outcomes after heart attacks. 

ThinkstockPhotos-479568015According to a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, older patients who have heart attacks can have up to a year added to their lives if they receive treatment at hospitals that are considered “high-performing” facilities.

According to a WebMD article about the study, these hospitals have low 30-day mortality rates after patients experience heart attacks.

The study looked at health data for thousands of Medicare hospital patients who had heart attacks in the mid ‘90s, and then followed their outcomes over a period of almost two decades.

Patients who were treated at hospitals with lower 30-day mortality rates had a higher life expectancy. On average, they lived anywhere from nine months to a year longer than patients who were treated at hospitals with higher mortality rates.

Why hospitals excelled

Although researchers didn’t have a specific reason why patients fared so much better at hospitals with lower mortality rates, they suggested that several factors could play a role, including:

  • Closely following guidelines for heart attack treatment. Some facilities may be doing a better job adhering to evidence-based treatment guidelines for heart attacks. After a patient experiences a heart attack, providers need to prescribe several specific medications to lower the risk of a second heart attack. They should also follow up with patients shortly after discharge to make sure they’re taking medications as prescribed.
  • Better staff communication. Research has shown that strong teamwork between hospital staff and other providers makes a significant difference with how well patients recover after a hospital visit. When providers communicate well with nurses, paramedics, specialists and other medical professionals, patients’ outcomes tend to improve. High-performing hospitals often take the extra effort to strengthen staff members’ communication skills.

Patients’ socioeconomic status can also play a role in how well they recover after a heart attack. Though this study controlled for that influence in its analysis, it’s something hospitals need to consider when they’re treating patients.

In particular, it could be helpful for facilities to steer patients toward community resources that may help them meet specific socioeconomic needs after they’re discharged, including food banks and low-cost healthcare clinics.

Hospitals that want to improve Medicare patients’ outcomes after heart attacks would be wise to consider what top-performers are doing, so they can incorporate some of those practices into their general treatment protocols. It’s also helpful to look at your patient mix to figure out how you can better meet its unique needs after patients experience heart attacks.

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