Outpatient cardiology care improves survival odds after heart attack

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But many patients are not prescribed effective drugs

Previous research suggests that patients may live longer if they are under a cardiologist’s care while hospitalized for myocardial infarction. In a new study, John Ayanian, Harvard Medical School associate professor of medicine in the Department of Health Care Policy, and colleagues examined the records of patients covered under Medicare to see whether this held true for outpatient care. They found that elderly heart attack patients who visit a cardiologist’s office in the months after leaving the hospital are less likely to die within two years than patients who visit only their primary care doctor, and patients who visit both a cardiologist and a primary care doctor have even better outcomes. “Physicians providing ambulatory care to patients who survive a heart attack have a very important role to play,” Ayanian said. “They can monitor and treat patients for complications, such as chest pain or depression, that often develop after patients leave the hospital.” Co-authors of the study, published in the Nov. 21, 2002 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, were Mary Beth Landrum, assistant professor of biostatistics; Edward Guadagnoli, associate professor; and Peter Gaccione, senior programmer, all in the Health Care Policy department.