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Allina Health researchers find palliative care improves heart failure patients' lives

MINNEAPOLIS 04/06/2015

An Allina Health study, "Inpatient Palliative Care for Patients with Acute Heart Failure," published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, showed that palliative care for heart failure patients in the hospital is associated with improvements in depression symptoms, quality of life, and symptom burden.

Palliative care—a holistic approach to providing comfort and symptom relief for people with advanced disease regardless of stage of illness and treatment—has long been shown to improve symptoms, depression and quality of life for cancer patients.

Allina Health researchers were curious to know if the same would be true with heart failure patients. Hallie Richards, MD, palliative care physician, and Justin Kirven, MD, hospitalist, who worked together on an Abbott Northwestern Hospital committee focused on improving management of heart failure patients, were also interested in the potential of palliative care services to address some of the needs they see in acute heart failure patients.

"Heart failure patients are good candidates for palliative care because heart failure is associated with high symptom burden, functional impairment, increased care giver burden and high re-hospitalization rates. However, despite consensus statement recommendations by national cardiology groups, heart failure patients rarely receive services from palliative care providers compared to cancer patients," said Richards.

Richards, Kirven and the hospital's inpatient palliative care team partnered with researchers Abbey Sidebottom and Ann Jorgenson on a randomized control trial that tested inpatient palliative care services for acute heart failure patients. The Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation funded the study.

"There were noticeable, meaningful differences between the intervention and control groups at one and three months after hospitalization from an intervention that took place during generally short inpatient stays, and with 80 percent of patients receiving only one visit with a palliative care provider. Patients with palliative care visits had larger improvements in symptom burden, depression symptoms, and quality of life," said Sidebottom, lead author of the paper.

Sidebottom said patients in the study group were also three times more likely to complete an advanced care planning process in the six months following hospitalization.

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Allina Health is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of illness and enhancing the greater health of individuals, families and communities throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. A not-for-profit health care system, Allina Health cares for patients from beginning to end-of-life through its 90+ clinics, 12 hospitals, 15 retail pharmacies, specialty care centers and specialty medical services, home care, home oxygen and medical equipment and emergency medical transportation services

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