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Teaching Hospitals Provide Better Care for Older Heart Attack Patients

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Press Release Date: September 12, 2000

Elderly patients treated for heart attack at teaching hospitals are more likely to survive and receive better quality care than those treated at hospitals that do not train physicians, concludes a nationwide study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers who conducted the study found that Medicare patients aged 65 and older provided care for myocardial infarction at teaching hospitals were more likely to still be alive two years after being discharged—the maximum followup period studied—than were similar patients treated at non-teaching hospitals. Further analysis revealed that most of the teaching hospital patients' lower heart attack death rate was due to having received better quality of care.

"This study underscores the importance of vigorously evaluating the outcomes and effectiveness of how and where we deliver health care services," said John M. Eisenberg, M.D., AHRQ's director."This is just as critical to improving health care quality as studying the outcomes and effectiveness of different medical treatments."

"This is the most extensive and in-depth study to date of quality of patient care and mortality according to hospital teaching status," said Robert Centor, M.D., a senior author of the study.

The researchers found that the patients of major teaching hospitals—academic medical centers with more than one intern for every 10 patients—were more apt to be given aspirin during their stays, if appropriate, than were the non-teaching hospitals' patients (91.2 percent versus 81.4 percent). Aspirin helps prevent blood clots which can cause a repeat heart attack or stroke.

The major teaching hospital patients were also more likely to be given beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) upon discharge, when appropriate, (48.8 percent versus 36.5 percent and 63.6 percent versus 58 percent, respectively). Beta-blockers slow the heart rate and reduce contractions of the heart muscle; ACE inhibitors reduce constriction of blood vessels.

Usage rates for these drugs at minor teaching hospitals—facilities with one or fewer interns for every 10 patients—were lower than those of major teaching hospitals but higher than the rates for non-teaching facilities.

The study found no significant differences between teaching and non-teaching hospitals in the use of angioplasty—an invasive procedure for opening clogged arteries—or thrombolytic drugs, used to dissolve blood clots, with the relatively small number of patients who were ideal candidates for these treatments.

The study was based on Medicare data on 114,129 randomly selected patients from all 50 states who were treated for heart attack between February 1994 to July 1995.

For details see "Teaching versus Non-Teaching Hospitals: Mortality and Quality of Care for Medicare Patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction," by Jeroan J. Allison, M.D., Catarina I. Kiefe, Ph.D., M.D., Norman W. Weissman, Ph.D., Sharina Person, Ph.D., Dr. Centor and others. The study is in the September 13, 2000, issue of JAMA

Notes to Reporters:

JAMA has produced a video news release on this study. The VNR will be on Galaxy Transponder14, C-band on Tuesday, September 12, from 9 to 9:30 a.m., and on Telstar 6,Transponder 4, C-band from 2 to 2:30 p.m. EDT. Please note that news of this study is embargoed until 4 p.m. EDT on September 12.

For interviews of Dr. Centor, please call Joy Carter of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Media Relation's office at (205) 934-1676.

For more information, contact AHRQ Public Affairs (301) 427-1364: Bob Isquith (301) 427-1539 (

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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