TUESDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- In the past decade, the number of Medicare patients hospitalized for heart failure has dropped significantly, researchers report.
"In the past 10 years, there has been a 30 percent drop in the heart failure hospitalization rate across the whole United States," said lead researcher Dr. Jersey Chen, an assistant professor of cardiology at Yale University School of Medicine. "That's a large decrease."
The lower rate of hospitalization is most likely due to several factors, Chen said. Fewer people are developing heart failure because there are fewer cases of cardiovascular disease, fewer heart attacks and better control of risk factors such as high blood pressure. Also, people who suffer from heart failure are getting better outpatient care, which prevents the condition from becoming so serious the patient needs to be hospitalized, Chen explained.
"Regardless of the cause, a 30 percent drop is surprising," Chen said. "It has saved the health system quite a bit of money."
In 2008, the decline in hospitalization for heart failure meant that 229,000 fewer people were hospitalized. Since each hospitalization costs about $18,000 per patient, Medicare saved $4.1 billion in 2008 alone, the researchers found.
The report was published in the Oct. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
For the study, Chen's team collected data on over 55 million Medicare patients hospitalized between 1998 and 2008 for heart failure. Over the 10-year period, the average age of hospitalized heart patients rose from 79 to 79.9.
In addition, the percentage of women hospitalized dropped from 58.9 percent to 55.7 percent. However, the proportion of black patients hospitalized for heart failure increased from 11.3 percent in 1998 to 11.7 percent in 2008, the researchers found.
Overall, hospitalization for heart failu
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