Background: Readmissions after cardiac hospitalizations are frequent and costly in the United States. Delays in follow-up and lack of adherence to guidelines may contribute to high unplanned readmission rates. Bridging the Discharge Gap Effectively (BRIDGE) is a nurse practitioner (NP) led, transitional care clinic for cardiac patients, aimed at reducing readmissions. Data on patients referred to BRIDGE has been collected since 2009; herein we report a summary of significant findings from these data.
Methods: A qualitative review of results and conclusions from all published abstracts, oral presentations, and papers from the BRIDGE registry (June 2008-August 2015) was conducted. Content analysis was used to synthesize findings across studies.
Results: Data from 3982 patients referred to BRIDGE have been collected. Seven themes were identified in the analysis of BRIDGE publications. During BRIDGE, NPs focused on medical history, symptoms, medication management (in 24.8% of visits), patient education, and referrals. In addition to addressing provider priorities, addressing patient concerns (daily living and clinical questions, feelings and fears) was highly salient, resulting in a high level of patient-NP connectedness as evidenced by high patient-reported scores on the Consultation and Relational Empathy scale (mean 43.5 ± 2.8; possible range 0, 50) and the Patient-Doctor Relationship Questionnaire (mean 43.05 ± 3.1; possible range 5, 45). Readmissions within 30 days were consistently lower for acute coronary syndrome (ACS) patients who attended BRIDGE compared to those who did not (6.4% v. 13.1%; p<0.01); similar results were not seen in heart failure (HF) (15.4% v. 15.7%; p=0.944) or atrial fibrillation (AF) (8.5% v. 5.2%; p=0.343) patients. A spike in HF readmissions was seen between 8-14 days post-discharge, suggesting the need for a sooner appointment. However, follow-up within 7 days of discharge did not show reduced readmissions in HF patients. AF readmissions were also difficult to avoid; in a subset of AF patients readmitted within 30 days, 51.1% (n=23) were readmitted for non-AF diagnoses. High risk patients (i.e. those with an adverse event before BRIDGE) were older, had higher Charlson comorbidity scores, and were more likely to have depression. However, marriage was associated with fewer readmissions.
Conclusions: Data from the BRIDGE registry have shown that clinic attendance reduced ACS readmissions; has characterized older, depressed patients with higher Charlson comorbidity scores as being those most likely to be readmitted; and has identified areas for improvement in transitional care (e.g. AF and HF) where readmissions are difficult to avoid. Continuous quality improvement and real-time monitoring of patient outcomes have translated this research into more prompt transitional care, illustrating the importance of registry-based research.