Last updated: August 27. 2014 10:18AM - 593 Views

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A new national study suggests we are succeeding in improving health care and educating consumers about the benefits of developing healthier lifestyles.

According to a large study of Medicare patients conducted by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, hospitalizations for heart attack have dropped by 38 percent from 1999 to 2011. The study results were released last week.

Lead researcher and Yale cardiology professor Dr. Harlan Krumholz believes the improvements result from three factors: lifestyle changes, better treatment and more effective preventive methods.

The study results suggest doctors, hospitals and health groups are getting the “best care to the most people as quickly as possible,” Krumholz said.

At the same time, he said the study indicates consumer education is working.

Yale’s national study echoes the results of the report “Cardiac Surgery in Pennsylvania,” released in November 2013 by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, or PHC4.

For heart valve surgery patients, the council found in-hospital mortality decreased 38 percent between 2005 and 2012, and re-admissions declined by 14 percent between 2005 and 2012. For patients undergoing heart bypass surgery, there was a 53 percent reduction in in-hospital mortality rates between 1994 and 2012, and readmission rates declined 19 percent between 2000 and 2012

The council also found that between 2007 and 2012, there was a 12 percent reduction in the number of hospital admissions for medically managed heart attack patients, and in-hospital mortality rates for these patients dropped almost 20 percent. Other analyses show a 33 percent decline in the hospitalization rate for Pennsylvanians with heart failure.

PHC4’s report showed statewide mortality rates for patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery and the rate of readmission within 30 days continued to decline in 2012 based on outcomes of 20,164 patients who underwent cardiac surgery in the 59 Pennsylvania general acute care hospitals that performed the procedures.

The findings nationally and in Pennsylvania underscore the dedication of Pennsylvania’s heart surgeons and hospitals to the healthy outcomes of their patients and demonstrate how Pennsylvania’s model public reporting program continues to help improve health care quality.

No other agency or research group provides the same information about cardiac surgery outcomes for specific surgeons and individual hospitals in the commonwealth.

As with the Yale study, making health care quality and cost more transparent is PHC4’s goal, and we work to achieve that every day.

Joe Martin is executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, an independent state agency based in Harrisburg. For information, visit www.phc4.org.

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