Pigskins & not porking out

Heart failure is one of the most expensive diseases in the U.S., with many boomerang patients and a stinging financial penalty from Medicare for hospitals with higher than expected 30-day readmissions. It doesn’t need to be that way.

First, with Super Bowl Sunday just days away, cardiologists and clinicians have a narrowing window to counsel their heart failure patients about the dangers of overindulging during the big game. As detailed this week in an interview with the senior researcher, an analysis of heart failure admissions at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia found a spike four days after the Super Bowl.

While the finding failed to reach statistical significance, it would be wise to pay heed—especially if you are a physician or patient in the Boston or Seattle regions. While the Patriots and Seahawks duke it out on the playing field, some of their fans will be slugging a few items themselves, like beer and salty snacks. That can exacerbate their condition, if they have heart failure.

“In 2005, the year that the Philadelphia Eagles were in the Super Bowl, the days after were the highest heart failure admissions that we saw compared to all other years,” Vincent M. Figueredo, MD, Einstein’s associate chair of cardiology at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, said in an interview.  

Physicians and others who care for heart failure patients have opportunities to pre-empt readmissions, but it takes some time and listening. A recently published study found that about 30 minutes spent with patients admitted to the emergency department for heart failure turned up barriers to their self-care. The interview process was structured with a few open-ended questions.

Ultimately, that may prove to be time well spent as patients open up and share their challenges. That is the first step in finding a solution, whether it is transportation to a grocery store and reconciling medications.

Consider this: In its 2015 statistical update, the American Heart Association estimated the total cost of heart failure in 2012 at $30.7 billion. The costs is expected to increase by 127 percent by 2030.

This tide can be turned, even on—or perhaps, especially on—these days when patients are most vulnerable.

Candace Stuart

Editor, Cardiovascular Business