Nurse navigators linked to fewer readmissions, deaths among heart attack patients

A program in which nurse navigators help heart attack patients transition from hospital to outpatient care can help lower readmission and mortality rates, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology's Cardiovascular Summit in Orlando.

The study analyzes the outcomes of the Sanger Heart & Vascular Heart Care Navigation Team, which Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health created in 2017. The program assigns heart patients to a health advocate and nurse navigator who meet with patients at the hospital and help them access follow-up care, answer questions and promote self-care for three months after discharge.

Researchers compared data on 560 heart attack patients treated between July 2016 and June 2017 (before the program began) to data on 421 patients treated for a heart attack between July 2017 and June 2018.

They found 30-day readmission rates fell from 6.3 percent to 3.7 percent in the year after the program's implementation. The 30-day death rate also fell from 5.75 percent to 4.57 percent after the program was launched, and patient follow-up appointments made before discharge jumped from 78 percent to 96 percent.

"This study shows that nurse navigators are an integral part of reducing heart attack readmission and mortality," Amber Furr, BSN, RN, a performance improvement coordinator at Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, said in a press release. "We're not where we want to be yet with cardiac rehab referrals or guideline-driven care, but we have seen an improvement."

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