Lead author Elizabeth H. Bradley of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., said each procedure had some impact, but if all six recommendations were followed, readmissions could drop as much as 2 percent. This number might seem like a small number, but the significance is enormous, she said.
"A million people are hospitalized with heart failure each year and about 250,000 will be back in the hospital within a month," Bradley said in a statement. "If we could keep even 2 percent of them from coming back to the hospital, that could equal a savings of more than $100 million a year."
Bradley said her team identified six steps as most effective:
-- Forming partnerships with community doctors to address readmission issues.
-- Collaborating with other hospitals to develop consistent strategies for reducing readmission.
-- Having nurses supervise the coordination of medication plans.
-- Scheduling follow-up appointments before patients leave the hospital.
-- Developing systems to forward discharge information to the patient's primary care doctor.
-- Contacting patients on all test results received after they are discharged.
The researchers analyzed nearly 600 hospital surveys, taken November 2010 to May 2011.
The study, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found fewer than 30 percent of the hospitals followed most of the steps, and only 7 percent used all six.