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Transitional Care Interventions to Prevent Readmissions for Persons With Heart Failure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysisTransitional Care for Persons With Heart Failure FREE

Cynthia Feltner, MD, MPH; Christine D. Jones, MD, MS; Crystal W. Cené, MD, MPH; Zhi-Jie Zheng, MD, PhD, MPH; Carla A. Sueta, MD, PhD; Emmanuel J.L. Coker-Schwimmer, MPH; Marina Arvanitis, MD; Kathleen N. Lohr, PhD, MPhil, MA; Jennifer C. Middleton, PhD; and Daniel E. Jonas, MD, MPH
[+] Article and Author Information

This article was published online first at www.annals.org on 27 May 2014.


From University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado; and RTI International, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and Rockville, Maryland.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this manuscript do not represent and should not be construed to represent a determination or policy of the AHRQ or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Acknowledgment: The authors thank Carol Woodell of RTI International for her project management expertise; Loraine Monroe of RTI International for editing and formatting the technical report; and Christine Chang, MD, MPH, AHRQ task order officer, for her considerable support, commitment, and contributions.

Grant Support: In part by AHRQ (grant HHSA290201200008I) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (contract HHSA29032003T).

Disclosures: Disclosures can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M14-0083.

Requests for Single Reprints: Cynthia Feltner, MD, MPH, Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 5034 Old Clinic Building, CB 7110, Chapel Hill, NC 27599; e-mail, cindy_feltner@med.unc.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Feltner and Jonas: Department of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 5034 Old Clinic Building, CB 7110, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

Dr. Jones: University of Colorado School of Medicine, Mail Stop F782, 12401 East 17th Avenue, Aurora, CO 80045.

Drs. Cené and Arvanitis: Division of General Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 5039 Old Clinic Building, CB 7110, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

Dr. Zheng: RTI International, 6110 Executive Boulevard, Suite 902, Rockville, MD 20852.

Dr. Sueta: UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care, 6th Floor, Burnette-Womack Building, 160 Dental Circle, CB 7075, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

Mr. Coker-Schwimmer and Dr. Middleton: RTI-UNC Evidence-based Practice Center, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB 7590, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

Dr. Lohr: RTI International, 3040 Cornwallis Road, PO Box 12194, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.

Author Contributions: Conception and design: C. Feltner, C.D. Jones, C.W. Cené, Z.J. Zheng, D.E. Jonas.

Analysis and interpretation of the data: C. Feltner, C.D. Jones, C.W. Cené, Z.J. Zheng, C.A. Sueta, E.J.L. Coker-Schwimmer, M. Arvanitis, K.N. Lohr, D.E. Jonas.

Drafting of the article: C. Feltner, C.W. Cené, Z.J. Zheng, E.J.L. Coker-Schwimmer, M. Arvanitis, K.N. Lohr, D.E. Jonas.

Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: C. Feltner, C.D. Jones, C.W. Cené, Z.J. Zheng, E.J.L. Coker-Schwimmer, K.N. Lohr, D.E. Jonas.

Final approval of the article: C. Feltner, C.D. Jones, C.W. Cené, Z.J. Zheng, C.A. Sueta, M. Arvanitis, K.N. Lohr, D.E. Jonas.

Provision of study materials or patients: Z.J. Zheng.

Statistical expertise: C. Feltner, D.E. Jonas.

Obtaining of funding: D.E. Jonas.

Administrative, technical, or logistic support: C. Feltner, E.J.L. Coker-Schwimmer, K.N. Lohr, J.C. Middleton, D.E. Jonas.

Collection and assembly of data: C. Feltner, C.D. Jones, C.A. Sueta, E.J.L. Coker-Schwimmer, M. Arvanitis, J.C. Middleton, D.E. Jonas.


Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(11):774-784. doi:10.7326/M14-0083
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Background: Nearly 25% of patients hospitalized with heart failure (HF) are readmitted within 30 days.

Purpose: To assess the efficacy, comparative effectiveness, and harms of transitional care interventions to reduce readmission and mortality rates for adults hospitalized with HF.

Data Sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, ClinicalTrials.gov, and World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (1 January 1990 to late October 2013).

Study Selection: Two reviewers independently selected randomized, controlled trials published in English reporting a readmission or mortality rate within 6 months of an index hospitalization.

Data Extraction: One reviewer extracted data, and another checked accuracy. Two reviewers assessed risk of bias and graded strength of evidence (SOE).

Data Synthesis: Forty-seven trials were included. Most enrolled adults with moderate to severe HF and a mean age of 70 years. Few trials reported 30-day readmission rates. At 30 days, a high-intensity home-visiting program reduced all-cause readmission and the composite end point (all-cause readmission or death; low SOE). Over 3 to 6 months, home-visiting programs and multidisciplinary heart failure (MDS-HF) clinic interventions reduced all-cause readmission (high SOE). Home-visiting programs reduced HF-specific readmission and the composite end point (moderate SOE). Structured telephone support (STS) interventions reduced HF-specific readmission (high SOE) but not all-cause readmissions (moderate SOE). Home-visiting programs, MDS-HF clinics, and STS interventions produced a mortality benefit. Neither telemonitoring nor primarily educational interventions reduced readmission or mortality rates.

Limitations: Few trials reported 30-day readmission rates. Usual care was heterogeneous and sometimes not adequately described.

Conclusion: Home-visiting programs and MDS-HF clinics reduced all-cause readmission and mortality; STS reduced HF-specific readmission and mortality. These interventions should receive the greatest consideration by systems or providers seeking to implement transitional care interventions for persons with HF.

Primary Funding Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


Heart failure (HF) is a leading cause of hospitalization and health care costs in the United States (1). Up to 25% of patients hospitalized with HF are readmitted within 30 days (25). Readmissions after an index hospitalization for HF are related to various conditions. An analysis of Medicare claims data from 2007 to 2009 found that 35% of readmissions within 30 days were for HF; the remainder were for diverse indications (for example, renal disorders, pneumonia, and arrhythmias) (2).

To reduce rehospitalization of Medicare patients, in October 2012, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began decreasing reimbursements to hospitals with excessive risk-standardized readmission (6). This policy incentivizes hospitals to develop programs to reduce readmission rates for persons with HF. Despite advances in the quality of acute and chronic HF disease management, knowledge gaps remain about effective interventions to support the transition of care for persons with HF.

Interventions designed to prevent readmissions among populations transitioning from one care setting to another are often called “transitional care interventions” (78). They aim to avoid poor outcomes caused by uncoordinated care, such as preventable readmissions (9). Although no clear set of components defines transitional care interventions, they focus on patient or caregiver education, medication reconciliation, and coordination among health professionals involved in the transition.

We conducted a systematic review of transitional care interventions for persons with HF for the Effective Health Care Program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) (10). We included a broad range of intervention types (Table 1) applicable to adults transitioning from hospital to home that aimed to prevent readmissions. Although 30-day readmissions are the focus of quality measures, we also included readmissions measured over 3 to 6 months because these are common, costly, and potentially preventable (5). The full technical report addressed 5 questions (Appendix Table 1). For this article, we focused on readmission and mortality outcomes.

Table Jump PlaceholderTable 1. Transitional Care Interventions 
Table Jump PlaceholderAppendix Table 1. Scope and Key Questions* 

We developed and followed a standard protocol. A technical report that details methods and includes complete search strategies and additional evidence tables is available at www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/reports/final.cfm.

Data Sources and Searches

We searched MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, and CINAHL for English-language and human-only studies published from 1 July 2007 to late October 2013, and we used a previous technology assessment on a similar topic to identify randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) published before 1 July 2007 (11). An experienced Evidence-based Practice Center librarian conducted the searches, and a second librarian reviewed them. We manually searched reference lists of pertinent reviews, included trials, and background articles on this topic to look for relevant citations our searches might have missed. We searched for relevant unpublished studies using ClinicalTrials.gov and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform.

Study Selection

We developed inclusion and exclusion criteria with respect to populations, interventions, comparators, outcomes, timing, settings, and study designs (Appendix Table 2). We included studies of adults recruited during or within 1 week of an index hospitalization for HF that compared a transitional care intervention with another eligible intervention or with usual care (that is, routine or standard care, as defined by the primary studies). We required that interventions include 1 or more of the following components: education of patient or caregiver delivered before or after discharge, planned or scheduled outpatient clinic visits (primary care or multidisciplinary heart failure [MDS-HF] clinic), home visits, telemonitoring, structured telephone support (STS), transition coach or case management, or interventions to increase provider continuity. We required studies to report a readmission rate, mortality rate, or the composite outcome (all-cause readmission or mortality). In the full report, we also assessed emergency department visits, acute care visits, hospital days of subsequent readmissions, quality of life, functional status, and caregiver or self-care burden (10).

Table Jump PlaceholderAppendix Table 2. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria for Studies of Transitional Care Interventions for Patients Hospitalized for HF 
Data Extraction and Risk-of-Bias Assessment

One team member extracted relevant data from each article, and a second team member reviewed all data extractions for completeness and accuracy.

We used predefined criteria based on the AHRQ Methods Guide for Comparative Effectiveness Reviews (12) to rate studies as having low, medium, high, or unclear risk of bias. Two reviewers independently assessed risk of bias for each study, and disagreements were resolved by consensus.

Data Synthesis and Analysis

We categorized intervention types primarily on the basis of the method and environment of delivery, as defined in Table 1. One investigator categorized the intervention, and a second team member reviewed the categorization. Disagreements were resolved by consensus. Given heterogeneity of the clinic-based interventions, we subcategorized these by clinic setting: MDS-HF, nurse-led HF, or primary care.

We used DerSimonian–Laird random-effects models (13) for meta-analyses of outcomes reported by multiple studies that were sufficiently similar to justify combining results. We ran meta-analyses of trials that reported the number of deaths or number of persons readmitted in each group (and not total readmissions per group). When only the total number of readmissions per group was available, we contacted authors for additional data. When we could not obtain the number of persons readmitted, we did not include the results in meta-analyses; instead, we included the results in qualitative syntheses and considered them when grading the strength of evidence (SOE).

For readmission and mortality rates, we calculated risk ratios (RRs). We stratified analyses for each intervention category by outcome timing and separated rates reported at 30 days from those after 30 days (that is, rates reported over 3 to 6 months were combined). We did not include studies rated as high or unclear risk of bias in our main analyses but included them in sensitivity analyses, which are available in the technical report (10); we describe them here only when they differed from primary analyses. We assessed statistical heterogeneity using the chi-square and I2 statistics (1415). We calculated the number needed to treat (NNT) for readmission and mortality outcomes when we had statistically significant findings based on our primary analyses of trials rated as low or medium risk of bias, and we found at least low SOE for benefit. The NNT was derived from the RR and median usual care event rate using methods described in the Cochrane Handbook (16). We conducted meta-analyses using Stata, version 11.1 (StataCorp, College Station, Texas).

We did meta-analysis stratified by intensity in each intervention category when variation existed. The results of these subgroup analyses are available in the main report (10); we describe them here only when we found a difference in efficacy based on level of intensity. Given the heterogeneity of included interventions, we could not develop a single measure of intensity that could be applied to all intervention categories. For most interventions, we defined intensity as the duration, frequency, or periodicity of patient contact and categorized each intervention as low-, medium-, or high-intensity. We reserved the low-intensity category for interventions that included 1 episode of patient contact or few resources.

We graded SOE as high, moderate, low, or insufficient based on guidance established for the Evidence-based Practice Center program (17). The approach incorporates 4 key domains: risk of bias, consistency, directness, and precision. When only 1 study reported an outcome of interest, we usually graded the SOE as insufficient (primarily due to unknown consistency and imprecision); however, when similar interventions had consistent results at other time points, we graded the SOE as low. Two reviewers assessed each domain for each outcome, and differences were resolved by consensus.

Role of the Funding Source

The AHRQ funded this review, and AHRQ staff participated in the development of the scope of the work and reviewed draft manuscripts. Approval from AHRQ was required before the manuscript could be submitted for publication, but the authors are solely responsible for the content and the decision to submit it for publication.

Searches of all sources identified 2419 potentially relevant citations. We included 47 RCTs (Appendix Figure 1). Trial characteristics are shown in Appendix Table 3. Most trials compared a transitional care intervention with usual care; 2 directly compared more than 1 intervention (both rated high risk of bias) (1819). In general, trials included adults with a mean age of 70 years who were hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of HF. Most reported HF disease severity based on the New York Heart Association classification and included persons with moderate to severe HF. Twenty-nine trials reported mean ejection fraction. Of these, 27 enrolled persons with a mean ejection fraction less than 0.50 and 7 trials specified a reduced ejection fraction as an inclusion criterion. Across most trials, the majority of patients were prescribed an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or angiotensin-receptor blocker. The percentages of patients who were prescribed β-blockers at discharge varied widely across trials. Trials were conducted in a range of settings: academic medical centers, Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, and community hospitals. Twenty-three were multicenter trials, and 23 were conducted in a single center. Twenty-six trials were conducted in the United States, and 21 were done in other developed countries.

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Appendix Figure 1.

Summary of evidence search and selection.

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Table Jump PlaceholderAppendix Table 3. Characteristics of Included Trials 

In general, trials report usual care as “standard discharge instructions” or “follow-up with outpatient provider as usual.” Most trials did not describe specific details, such as the type of clinic follow-up (for example, primary care vs. follow-up in a specialty clinic) or the timing of outpatient follow-up in the usual care group. We assessed most interventions as medium- or high-intensity (Appendix Table 3).

Fourteen RCTs compared a home-visiting program with usual care (2033), and 1 trial compared a home-visiting program with telemonitoring (19). Five trials involved only 1 comprehensive home visit (20, 2324, 26, 33) after an index hospitalization; the remainder included several planned visits. In most trials, nurses conducted the home visits, most of which began within 7 days of discharge. Three trials included visits within 24 to 48 hours of discharge (28, 3031), and 3 trials specified that visits were done within 14 days of discharge (21, 25, 32).

Thirteen RCTs described in 15 publications compared STS with usual care (18, 3445). Most trials averaged 1 or 2 calls during the intervention period, with the first contact occurring within 7 days of discharge. Interventions varied in whether predischarge education was delivered with STS. Most trials included a patient-initiated hotline for questions or additional support (34, 3738, 4042, 44).

Eight trials evaluated telemonitoring. Five evaluated remote clinical data monitoring using equipment installed in a patient's home (generally delivered within 2 to 7 days of discharge) that transmitted data to a central site (19, 4649). Three trials used specialized equipment to allow for video assessments and interactions with patients (18, 5052); the equipment could also check clinical data, such as blood pressure, or included stethoscopes to allow remote auscultation.

Seven trials evaluated outpatient clinic–based interventions (5360). Four were in MDS-HF specialty clinics (5457, 5960), 2 were in nurse-led HF specialty clinics (53, 58), and 1 assessed enhanced access to primary care (61). All involved a series of scheduled outpatient clinic visits beginning within 7 days of discharge or enrollment, as well as individualized care planning. The 2 interventions described as “nurse-led” focused on patient education delivered by nurses during scheduled appointments (53, 58). Trials that described MDS-HF clinic interventions emphasized more physician contact and access to a multidisciplinary care team (cardiologists, dieticians, and pharmacists) than nurse-led clinics.

Four trials evaluated a primarily educational intervention. One compared the effects of a 1-hour, in-person patient education program with usual discharge care; no other components were delivered after discharge (62). Two trials investigated the effects of HF education delivered by technology through predischarge viewing of an educational CD-ROM (63) or a 60-minute video that was intended to be viewed at home (64). One trial featured predischarge nurse-led intensive education about HF symptoms and treatment followed by 1 telephone call 3 to 5 days after discharge to reinforce education (65).

We also included 2 interventions in an “other” category. One featured individual peer support (66), and 1 emphasized cognitive training for persons with HF and coexisting mild cognitive impairment (67).

Overall Summary of Key Findings

Table 2 summarizes our key findings by intervention category, outcome, and timing and notes when we had the following: sufficient evidence to grade the SOE and whether evidence supports benefit, insufficient evidence to make a determination, or no included trials that reported an outcome. Table 3 presents more detailed results, including the RR (and its 95% CI) and the NNT (when applicable) for comparisons that included at least 1 trial reporting an outcome of interest.

Table Jump PlaceholderTable 2. Summary of Key Findings and SOE, by Outcome and Intervention Category* 
Table Jump PlaceholderTable 3. Summary of Key Findings and SOE for Transitional Care Interventions: Readmission Rates and Mortality 
Readmission and Mortality Rates at 30 Days

Figures 1 and 2 present our meta-analyses and RR calculations of trials reporting all-cause readmission and mortality, respectively. Results in both figures are stratified by intervention category and outcome timing. Meta-analysis and RR calculations for HF-specific readmission rates and the composite outcome are presented in Appendix Figures 2 and 3.

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Figure 1.

All-cause readmissions for transitional care interventions compared with usual care, by intervention category and outcome timing.

Weights are from random-effects analysis. MDS-HF = multidisciplinary heart failure; RR = risk ratio.

* Number of people readmitted per group (not total readmissions per group).

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Figure 2.

Mortality rate among persons receiving transitional care interventions compared with usual care, by intervention category and outcome timing.

Weights are from random-effects analysis. MDS-HF = multidisciplinary heart failure; RR = risk ratio.

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Appendix Figure 2.

HF readmissions for transitional care interventions compared with usual care, by intervention category and outcome timing.

Weights are from random-effects analysis. HF = heart failure; MDS = multidisciplinary; RR = risk ratio.

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Appendix Figure 3.

Composite all-cause readmission or mortality for transitional care interventions compared with usual care, by intervention category and outcome timing.

Weights are from random-effects analysis. MDS-HF = multidisciplinary heart failure; RR = risk ratio.

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Two home-visiting trials reported 30-day all-cause readmission rates. One trial evaluating a high-intensity home-visiting program found a lower risk for readmission among persons receiving home visits compared with the usual care group (RR, 0.34 [95% CI, 0.19 to 0.62]) (28). This intervention included a series of 8 planned home visits, the first within 24 hours of discharge. The other trial (20) assessed a medium-intensity intervention that included 1 telephone call within 7 days of discharge and 1 planned home visit within 10 days of discharge; this trial found no statistically significant reduction in all-cause readmissions (RR, 0.89 [CI, 0.43 to 1.85]). We concluded that high-intensity home-visiting programs (frequent home visits starting within 24 hours after discharge) reduce all-cause readmissions (low SOE), with an NNT of 6. Our SOE grade accounted for the consistency of similar interventions in reducing readmissions over 3 to 6 months (Figure 1). We also found low SOE for home-visiting programs in reducing the composite outcome at 30 days (Table 3) (28).

Four other trials across different intervention categories reported 30-day all-cause readmission: 1 STS trial (36), 2 telemonitoring trials (50, 52), and 1 trial of cognitive training (in persons with HF and coexisting cognitive dysfunction) (67). None of these interventions reduced 30-day all-cause readmission rates. One STS trial found no difference in the risk for 30-day HF-specific readmissions between persons receiving STS and those receiving usual care (36).

Readmission and Mortality Rates at 3 to 6 Months
All-Cause Readmissions

Both home-visiting programs and MDS-HF clinic interventions reduced all-cause readmissions over 3 to 6 months (high SOE; NNT, 7 to 9). The STS and telemonitoring interventions were not effective in reducing the risk for all-cause readmission (moderate SOE for both). Similarly, nurse-led clinic interventions were not efficacious in reducing the risk for all-cause readmission (low SOE). One trial found that patients with HF who had enhanced access to primary care after discharge (through a Veterans Affairs health care setting) had a higher risk for all-cause readmission than those in the control group (61). However, because we had limited evidence from a single trial and unknown consistency, we graded the evidence on increasing access to primary care as insufficient. Evidence was insufficient to determine whether primarily educational interventions were effective in reducing all-cause readmission.

HF-Specific Readmissions

Home-visiting programs and STS interventions both reduced the risk for HF-specific readmissions (moderate and high SOE, respectively; NNT, 7 to 14). Telemonitoring did not reduce the risk for HF-specific readmissions (moderate SOE). Evidence was insufficient about whether MDS-HF clinic interventions, nurse-led HF clinic interventions, or primarily educational interventions reduced HF-specific readmissions (1 trial with unknown consistency for each).

Composite Outcome

Few trials reported the composite outcome (all-cause readmission or death). Home-visiting programs reduced the composite outcome over 3 to 6 months (moderate SOE; NNT, 10). Structured telephone support, MDS-HF clinic interventions, and primarily educational interventions were not effective in reducing the risk for the composite outcome. We had insufficient evidence for nurse-led clinic interventions (58) and no evidence for other intervention categories.

Mortality

Figure 2 presents our meta-analysis of trials reporting mortality rates stratified by intervention category and outcome timing. The following interventions reduced mortality compared with usual care (moderate SOE): home-visiting programs (NNT, 33), MDS-HF clinic interventions (NNT, 18), and STS (NNT, 27). Telemonitoring, nurse-led clinics, and primarily educational interventions did not reduce mortality (low SOE). Evidence for a reduction in mortality was insufficient for primary care interventions and cognitive training programs.

Sensitivity Analysis

For most sensitivity analyses, results were similar to those of our primary analyses. Details and complete forest plots are available in the full report (10). We found 1 exception. When we added 3 trials rated as high or unclear risk of bias, the effect of home-visiting programs on mortality over 3 to 6 months was no longer statistically significant, although the estimates of effects were similar (RR, 0.85 vs. 0.77); however, the CI was less precise and crossed 1 (RR, 0.85 [CI, 0.68 to 1.05]). In no other cases did adding trials rated as high or unclear risk of bias significantly change the overall conclusions.

Current clinical practice for the care of adults with HF after hospitalization varies greatly (68). Our findings provide guidance to quality improvement efforts aimed at reducing readmission and mortality rates for persons with HF. Home-visiting programs and MDS-HF clinic interventions currently have the best evidence for reducing all-cause readmissions and mortality up to 6 months after an index hospitalization for persons with HF. We found little evidence on whether interventions reduced 30-day readmissions.

Trials included adults with similarities in age and New York Heart Association scores. Included trials commonly excluded persons with end-stage renal or severe cardiovascular disease; thus, results may not be applicable to persons with high levels of coexisting illness. The trials we examined were conducted in various inpatient settings, and more than half of included trials were done in the United States. Our findings are, therefore, generally applicable to many hospital settings in the United States.

Most trials compared an intervention with “usual care.” Whether usual care in trials published during the early 1990s is comparable to current practice is not clear. In general, trials did not report on specific details of usual care. However, median rates of readmission in the usual care groups of included trials are similar to readmission rates among Medicare beneficiaries (5). It is not clear whether variation in usual care across trials is a major factor in the applicability of findings because current clinical practice in the care of adults with HF after hospitalization is diverse and readmission rates vary by geographic location and insurance coverage (6869).

We identified systematic reviews during our searches that were relevant to our key questions. Prior reviews differed in scope in that they either excluded readmission outcomes measured before 6 months or included trials that enrolled stable samples of patients with HF recruited from outpatient settings (7072). In addition, other reviews used different categorization strategies, which may have led to different conclusions. For example, 1 recent systematic review and network meta-analysis found no statistically significant effect of remote monitoring interventions on mortality or all-cause readmission up to 1 year; this review also combined STS and telemonitoring (70). A 2009 Cochrane review found that “case-management” interventions (home-visiting programs and telephone support) reduced all-cause mortality at 12 months (but not at 6 months) and reduced HF-specific readmissions at 6 months and 1 year (71). The interventions included in our review were heterogeneous and could probably be categorized using various approaches. We classified them in a manner that we believe is descriptive and informative for physicians interested in interventions that could be implemented during the transition from hospital to home.

Potential limitations of our review include publication bias and selective reporting. We searched for unpublished trials and outcomes but did not find direct evidence of either type of bias. Many of the included trials were published before trial registries (for example, ClinicalTrials.gov) became available. Had we been able to consult such registries, we would have had greater certainty about the potential for either type of bias. Many of the included trials had methodological limitations introducing some risk of bias. Some trials did not clearly describe methods used for assessing readmissions, and methods for handling missing data varied. Finally, heterogeneity of outcome measures across trials (for example, different types of readmission rates) is a limitation. We addressed this (in part) by contacting authors for additional data on the number of persons readmitted per group (as opposed to total readmissions per group); 9 authors were contacted, and 5 provided additional data (26, 28, 30, 46, 58).

We identified important gaps in the evidence that future research could address. Future studies should evaluate whether interventions that reduce readmission rates over 3 to 6 months also reduce 30-day readmission rates and could directly compare 1 intervention with another (for example, home-visiting program vs. multidisciplinary clinic). We identified only 1 trial based in a primary care outpatient clinic. Given that many patients do not have access to specialty care (for example, in rural settings) or may prefer care based in primary care clinics, future studies should evaluate the efficacy of transitional care interventions in primary care clinics.

In summary, few trials reported 30-day readmission rates; 1 high-intensity home-visiting trial reduced all-cause readmission over 30 days (low SOE). At outcome timings over 3 to 6 months, home-visiting programs and MDS-HF clinic interventions reduced all-cause readmission and mortality; STS reduced HF-specific readmission and mortality but not all-cause readmission. These interventions should receive the greatest consideration by systems or providers seeking to implement transitional care interventions for persons with HF.

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Schünemann HJ, Oxman AD, Vist GE, Higgins JPT, Deeks JJ, Glasziou P, et al. Chapter 12: Interpreting results and drawing conclusions. In: Higgins JPT, Green ST, eds. Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Version 5.1.0, updated March 2011. Oxford, United Kingdom: The Cochrane Collaboration; 2011.
 
Owens DK, Lohr KN, Atkins D, Treadwell JR, Reston JT, Bass EB, et al. AHRQ series paper 5: grading the strength of a body of evidence when comparing medical interventions—Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Effective Health-Care Program. J Clin Epidemiol. 2010; 63:513-23.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
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PubMed
CrossRef
 
Benatar D, Bondmass M, Ghitelman J, Avitall B. Outcomes of chronic heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2003; 163:347-52.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Jaarsma T, Halfens R, Huijer Abu-Saad H, Dracup K, Gorgels T, van Ree J, et al. Effects of education and support on self-care and resource utilization in patients with heart failure. Eur Heart J. 1999; 20:673-82.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Sethares KA, Elliott K. The effect of a tailored message intervention on heart failure readmission rates, quality of life, and benefit and barrier beliefs in persons with heart failure. Heart Lung. 2004; 33:249-60.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Triller DM, Hamilton RA. Effect of pharmaceutical care services on outcomes for home care patients with heart failure. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2007; 64:2244-9.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Stewart S, Marley JE, Horowitz JD. Effects of a multidisciplinary, home-based intervention on unplanned readmissions and survival among patients with chronic congestive heart failure: a randomised controlled study. Lancet. 1999; 354:1077-83.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Stewart S, Pearson S, Horowitz JD. Effects of a home-based intervention among patients with congestive heart failure discharged from acute hospital care. Arch Intern Med. 1998; 158:1067-72.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Pugh LC, Havens DS, Xie S, Robinson JM, Blaha C. Case management for elderly persons with heart failure: the quality of life and cost outcomes. MEDSURG Nursing. 2001; 10:71-8.
 
Kimmelstiel C, Levine D, Perry K, Patel AR, Sadaniantz A, Gorham N, et al. Randomized, controlled evaluation of short- and long-term benefits of heart failure disease management within a diverse provider network: the SPAN-CHF trial. Circulation. 2004; 110:1450-5.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Kwok T, Lee J, Woo J, Lee DT, Griffith S. A randomized controlled trial of a community nurse-supported hospital discharge programme in older patients with chronic heart failure. J Clin Nurs. 2008; 17:109-17.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Naylor MD, Brooten DA, Campbell RL, Maislin G, McCauley KM, Schwartz JS. Transitional care of older adults hospitalized with heart failure: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004; 52:675-84.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Aldamiz-Echevarría Iraúrgui B, Muñiz J, Rodríguez-Fernández JA, Vidán-Martínez L, Silva-César M, Lamelo-Alfonsín F, et al. [Randomized controlled clinical trial of a home care unit intervention to reduce readmission and death rates in patients discharged from hospital following admission for heart failure]. Rev Esp Cardiol. 2007; 60:914-22.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Rich MW, Beckham V, Wittenberg C, Leven CL, Freedland KE, Carney RM. A multidisciplinary intervention to prevent the readmission of elderly patients with congestive heart failure. N Engl J Med. 1995; 333:1190-5.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Rich MW, Vinson JM, Sperry JC, Shah AS, Spinner LR, Chung MK, et al. Prevention of readmission in elderly patients with congestive heart failure: results of a prospective, randomized pilot study. J Gen Intern Med. 1993; 8:585-90.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Holland R, Brooksby I, Lenaghan E, Ashton K, Hay L, Smith R, et al. Effectiveness of visits from community pharmacists for patients with heart failure: HeartMed randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2007; 334:1098.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Thompson DR, Roebuck A, Stewart S. Effects of a nurse-led, clinic and home-based intervention on recurrent hospital use in chronic heart failure. Eur J Heart Fail. 2005; 7:377-84.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Barth V. A nurse-managed discharge program for congestive heart failure patients: outcomes and costs. Home Health Care Manag Pract. 2001; 13:436-43.
CrossRef
 
Riegel B, Carlson B, Kopp Z, LePetri B, Glaser D, Unger A. Effect of a standardized nurse case-management telephone intervention on resource use in patients with chronic heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2002; 162:705-12.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Riegel B, Carlson B, Glaser D, Romero T. Randomized controlled trial of telephone case management in Hispanics of Mexican origin with heart failure. J Card Fail. 2006; 12:211-9.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Laramee AS, Levinsky SK, Sargent J, Ross R, Callas P. Case management in a heterogeneous congestive heart failure population: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2003; 163:809-17.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Angermann CE, Störk S, Gelbrich G, Faller H, Jahns R, Frantz S, et al, Competence Network Heart Failure. Mode of action and effects of standardized collaborative disease management on mortality and morbidity in patients with systolic heart failure: the Interdisciplinary Network for Heart Failure (INH) study. Circ Heart Fail. 2012; 5:25-35.
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McDonald K, Ledwidge M, Cahill J, Quigley P, Maurer B, Travers B, et al. Heart failure management: multidisciplinary care has intrinsic benefit above the optimization of medical care. J Card Fail. 2002; 8:142-8.
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Ledwidge M, Barry M, Cahill J, Ryan E, Maurer B, Ryder M, et al. Is multidisciplinary care of heart failure cost-beneficial when combined with optimal medical care? Eur J Heart Fail. 2003; 5:381-9.
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Kasper EK, Gerstenblith G, Hefter G, Van Anden E, Brinker JA, Thiemann DR, et al. A randomized trial of the efficacy of multidisciplinary care in heart failure outpatients at high risk of hospital readmission. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002; 39:471-80.
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Pandor A, Gomersall T, Stevens JW, Wang J, Al-Mohammad A, Bakhai A, et al. Remote monitoring after recent hospital discharge in patients with heart failure: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Heart. 2013; 99:1717-26.
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Takeda A, Taylor SJ, Taylor RS, Khan F, Krum H, Underwood M. Clinical service organisation for heart failure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012; 9:CD002752.
PubMed
 
Inglis SC, Clark RA, McAlister FA, Ball J, Lewinter C, Cullington D, et al. Structured telephone support or telemonitoring programmes for patients with chronic heart failure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010; CD007228.
PubMed
 
Wakefield BJ, Holman JE, Ray A, Scherubel M, Burns TL, Kienzle MG, et al. Outcomes of a home telehealth intervention for patients with heart failure. J Telemed Telecare. 2009; 15:46-50.
PubMed
CrossRef
 

Figures

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Appendix Figure 1.

Summary of evidence search and selection.

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Grahic Jump Location
Figure 1.

All-cause readmissions for transitional care interventions compared with usual care, by intervention category and outcome timing.

Weights are from random-effects analysis. MDS-HF = multidisciplinary heart failure; RR = risk ratio.

* Number of people readmitted per group (not total readmissions per group).

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Grahic Jump Location
Figure 2.

Mortality rate among persons receiving transitional care interventions compared with usual care, by intervention category and outcome timing.

Weights are from random-effects analysis. MDS-HF = multidisciplinary heart failure; RR = risk ratio.

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Grahic Jump Location
Appendix Figure 2.

HF readmissions for transitional care interventions compared with usual care, by intervention category and outcome timing.

Weights are from random-effects analysis. HF = heart failure; MDS = multidisciplinary; RR = risk ratio.

Grahic Jump Location
Grahic Jump Location
Appendix Figure 3.

Composite all-cause readmission or mortality for transitional care interventions compared with usual care, by intervention category and outcome timing.

Weights are from random-effects analysis. MDS-HF = multidisciplinary heart failure; RR = risk ratio.

Grahic Jump Location

Tables

Table Jump PlaceholderTable 1. Transitional Care Interventions 
Table Jump PlaceholderAppendix Table 1. Scope and Key Questions* 
Table Jump PlaceholderAppendix Table 2. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria for Studies of Transitional Care Interventions for Patients Hospitalized for HF 
Table Jump PlaceholderAppendix Table 3. Characteristics of Included Trials 
Table Jump PlaceholderTable 2. Summary of Key Findings and SOE, by Outcome and Intervention Category* 
Table Jump PlaceholderTable 3. Summary of Key Findings and SOE for Transitional Care Interventions: Readmission Rates and Mortality 

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CrossRef
 
Jaarsma T, Halfens R, Huijer Abu-Saad H, Dracup K, Gorgels T, van Ree J, et al. Effects of education and support on self-care and resource utilization in patients with heart failure. Eur Heart J. 1999; 20:673-82.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Sethares KA, Elliott K. The effect of a tailored message intervention on heart failure readmission rates, quality of life, and benefit and barrier beliefs in persons with heart failure. Heart Lung. 2004; 33:249-60.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Triller DM, Hamilton RA. Effect of pharmaceutical care services on outcomes for home care patients with heart failure. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2007; 64:2244-9.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Stewart S, Marley JE, Horowitz JD. Effects of a multidisciplinary, home-based intervention on unplanned readmissions and survival among patients with chronic congestive heart failure: a randomised controlled study. Lancet. 1999; 354:1077-83.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Stewart S, Pearson S, Horowitz JD. Effects of a home-based intervention among patients with congestive heart failure discharged from acute hospital care. Arch Intern Med. 1998; 158:1067-72.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Pugh LC, Havens DS, Xie S, Robinson JM, Blaha C. Case management for elderly persons with heart failure: the quality of life and cost outcomes. MEDSURG Nursing. 2001; 10:71-8.
 
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PubMed
CrossRef
 
Kwok T, Lee J, Woo J, Lee DT, Griffith S. A randomized controlled trial of a community nurse-supported hospital discharge programme in older patients with chronic heart failure. J Clin Nurs. 2008; 17:109-17.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Naylor MD, Brooten DA, Campbell RL, Maislin G, McCauley KM, Schwartz JS. Transitional care of older adults hospitalized with heart failure: a randomized, controlled trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2004; 52:675-84.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Aldamiz-Echevarría Iraúrgui B, Muñiz J, Rodríguez-Fernández JA, Vidán-Martínez L, Silva-César M, Lamelo-Alfonsín F, et al. [Randomized controlled clinical trial of a home care unit intervention to reduce readmission and death rates in patients discharged from hospital following admission for heart failure]. Rev Esp Cardiol. 2007; 60:914-22.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
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PubMed
CrossRef
 
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PubMed
CrossRef
 
Holland R, Brooksby I, Lenaghan E, Ashton K, Hay L, Smith R, et al. Effectiveness of visits from community pharmacists for patients with heart failure: HeartMed randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2007; 334:1098.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Thompson DR, Roebuck A, Stewart S. Effects of a nurse-led, clinic and home-based intervention on recurrent hospital use in chronic heart failure. Eur J Heart Fail. 2005; 7:377-84.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Barth V. A nurse-managed discharge program for congestive heart failure patients: outcomes and costs. Home Health Care Manag Pract. 2001; 13:436-43.
CrossRef
 
Riegel B, Carlson B, Kopp Z, LePetri B, Glaser D, Unger A. Effect of a standardized nurse case-management telephone intervention on resource use in patients with chronic heart failure. Arch Intern Med. 2002; 162:705-12.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Riegel B, Carlson B, Glaser D, Romero T. Randomized controlled trial of telephone case management in Hispanics of Mexican origin with heart failure. J Card Fail. 2006; 12:211-9.
PubMed
CrossRef
 
Laramee AS, Levinsky SK, Sargent J, Ross R, Callas P. Case management in a heterogeneous congestive heart failure population: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2003; 163:809-17.
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