Background and aims
Most patients with heart failure (HF) are diagnosed following a hospital admission. The clinical and health economic impacts of index HF diagnosis made on admission to hospital versus community settings are not known.
We used the North West London Discover database to examine 34 208 patients receiving an index diagnosis of HF between January 2015 and December 2020. A propensity score-matched (PSM) cohort was identified to adjust for differences in socioeconomic status, cardiovascular risk and pre-diagnosis health resource utilisation cost. Outcomes were stratified by two pathways to index HF diagnosis: a ‘hospital pathway’ was defined by diagnosis following hospital admission; and a ‘community pathway’ by diagnosis via a general practitioner or outpatient services. The primary clinical and health economic endpoints were all-cause mortality and cost-consequence differential, respectively.
The diagnosis of HF was via hospital pathway in 68% (23 273) of patients. The PSM cohort included 17 174 patients (8582 per group) and was matched across all selected confounders (p>0.05). The ratio of deaths per person-months at 24 months comparing community versus hospital diagnosis was 0.780 (95% CI 0.722 to 0.841, p<0.0001). By 72 months, the ratio of deaths was 0.960 (0.905 to 1.020, p=0.18). Diagnosis via hospital pathway incurred an overall extra longitudinal cost of £2485 per patient.
Index diagnosis of HF through hospital admission continues to dominate and is associated with a significantly greater short-term risk of mortality and substantially increased long-term costs than if first diagnosed in the community. This study highlights the potential for community diagnosis—early, before symptoms necessitate hospitalisation—to improve both clinical and health economic outcomes.