Healthcare News & Insights

New way to perform heart surgery can boost outcomes, cut costs

One of the conditions Medicare’s closely looking at for readmissions is heart disease. Often, patients who are admitted for heart conditions or heart attacks end up having cardiovascular surgery, and any complications arising after these procedures could negatively impact readmission rates. So hospitals need to be looking for ways to make sure these patients recover quickly. 

New research offers insight about the best way to perform a common cardiovascular procedure: percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), or balloon angioplasty and stenting to treat arteries in the heart that have narrowed.

According to a news release from the American College of Cardiology, PCI is not only one of the most common cardiovascular procedures, it’s also one of the most expensive. It costs the country close to $10 billion each year.

With the growing pressure on hospitals to control healthcare costs while improving outcomes, exploring less expensive, value-focused alternatives is critical.

Different care protocols

Providers usually perform PCI by accessing the bloodstream through arteries in either the patient’s arm or leg. They insert a catheter into the artery, and thread it through to the heart so they can view the heart’s blood vessels via X-ray. The tip of the tube contains a balloon, which is inflated once it reaches the heart artery to open it up. Afterward, a stent’s placed inside to keep the artery from narrowing again.

In almost every case, patients undergoing PCI that’s performed through a leg artery must stay overnight at the hospital. However, patients receiving the procedure through their arm can be discharged on the same day, as long as their medical condition supports it.

According to research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Interventions, arm artery PCI procedures with same-day discharge had several benefits over the more traditional form of PCI. Procedures performed via the arm artery were associated with fewer vascular complications, less bleeding and fewer transfusions than those performed via leg arteries.

In addition, costs were lower for procedures performed through the arm. The average cost of PCI via an arm artery with same-day discharge was $13,389, while the cost of PCI through leg access with an overnight stay at the hospital was $17,076 – a difference of over $3,600.

Researchers estimated that, if every hospital in the country switched to performing PCI via arm arteries and discharging patients on the same day, costs would be lowered by around $300 million each year.

The combination of better patient outcomes and reduced costs make this form of PCI more attractive to hospitals. Because value and quality are becoming important factors to determine how much hospitals get paid, providing high quality care at a lower cost should be the ultimate goal of every facility.

With that in mind, it may be time to review your clinical protocols when it comes to inserting stents, and give more patients the opportunity to receive this procedure on an outpatient basis.

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