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Heart failure hospital stays fall, saving billions

The Boston Globe/Associated Press, October 19, 2011

Hospital stays for heart failure fell a remarkable 30% in Medicare patients over a decade, the first such decline in the United States and forceful evidence that the nation is making headway in reducing the billion-dollar burden of a common condition. But the study of 55 million patients, the largest ever on heart failure trends, found only a slight decline in deaths within a year of leaving the hospital, and progress lagged for black men. "While heart failure hospitalizations have decreased nationally overall, certain populations haven't seen the full benefit of that decrease," said lead author Dr. Jersey Chen of Yale University School of Medicine. Possible explanations for the decline in hospital stays abound, including healthier hearts, better control of risk factors like high blood pressure, and more patients treated in emergency rooms and clinics without being admitted to hospitals, said Dr. Mariell Jessup, medical director of the Penn Heart and Vascular Center in Philadelphia.