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Increased spending doesn’t mean better health outcomes for heart attack patients, study shows

A new report published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that increased Medicare spending for treatment of heart attack patients does not result in better health outcomes.

The JAMA study details that while Medicare spending on cardiac procedures and post-acute care increased, the death rates for heart attack patients stayed the same during the 180 days after they were discharged. Data for the study came from than 479,000 Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized for heart attacks between 1999 and 2014.

Deaths within 180 days after discharge from the hospital for a heart attack decreased from 26.9 percent in 1999 to 21.5 percent in 2014, the study showed, with most of the change being seen within 30 days of being in the hospital. Between 31-180 days post-discharge, mortality rates were unchanged, even if more money was spent on care such as for outpatient services, skilled nursing facilities or home health.

Medicare spending for heart attack patients varied across hospitals. The 5 percent of hospitals with the most rapid growth in spending increased that spending 44.1 percent, while the lowest 5 percent dropped their spending 18.7 percent.

“The assumption to use more resources (to improve health outcomes for heart attack patients) might not be the case,” Dr. Donald Likosky, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at the University of Michigan and the author of the study, told Modern Healthcare.

Mortality rates did improve, however, in patients who received early treatment such as angioplasty with a stent, the study found.

What does this mean?

While hospitals nationwide spend different amounts of Medicare dollars to treat heart attack patients, we now know that additional care for post-procedure services after 30 days doesn’t change mortality rates. With this new information, Likosky says he hopes doctors and hospitals will rethink how they treat heart attack patients.

Would you be willing to spend more money on care even if you knew your health outcomes would not be improved? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.