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Trends in post-acute care and outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for heart failure between 2008 and 2015.

Keeney T, Lake D, Varma H, Resnik L, Teno JM, Grabowski DC, Gozalo P. Trends in post-acute care and outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for heart failure between 2008 and 2015. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2023 Mar 1; 71(3):730-741.

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BACKGROUND: Heart failure (HF) is the leading cause of hospitalization among older adults in the United States and results in high rates of post-acute care (PAC) utilization. Federal policies have focused on shifting PAC to less intensive settings and reducing length of stay to lower spending. This study evaluates the impact of policy changes on PAC use among Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized with HF between 2008 and 2015 by (1) characterizing trends in PAC use and cost and (2) evaluating changes in readmission, mortality, and days in the community, overall and by frailty. METHODS: Annual cross-section prospective cohorts of all HF admissions between 1/1/2008 and 9/30/2015 among a 20% random sample of all Medicare Fee-for-Service beneficiaries (n  =  718,737). The Claims-based Frailty Index (CFI) was used to classify frailty status. Multivariable regression models were used to evaluate trends in first discharge location, readmissions, mortality, days alive in the community, and costs; overall and by frailty status. RESULTS: Frailty was prevalent among HF patients: 54.1% were prefrail, 37.0% mildly frail, and 6.9% moderate to severely frail. Between 2008 and 2015, almost 4% more HF beneficiaries received PAC, with most of the increase concentrated in skilled nursing facilities (SNF) (+2.3%) and home health agencies (HHA) (+1.1%), and PAC cost increased by $123 (3.5%). Over the 180-days follow-up after hospitalization, hospital readmissions decreased significantly (-3.4% at 30-day; -6.3% at 180-day), days alive in the community increased (+1.5), and 180-day Medicare costs declined $2948 (-18.7%) without negative impact in mortality (except a minor increase in the pre-frail group). Gains were greatest among the frailest patients. CONCLUSIONS: Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized with HF spent more time in the community and experienced lower rehospitalization rates at lower cost without significant increases in mortality. However, important opportunities remain to optimize care for frail older adults hospitalized with HF.

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