Overall, the new guideline provides a thorough reassessment and expert analysis on the diagnosis and management of HF for both inpatient and outpatient care. The authors introduce the phrase “guideline-directed medical therapy” (GDMT) to emphasize the smaller set of recommendations that constitute optimal medical therapy for HF patients. This designation, encompassing primarily Class I recommendations, helps providers rapidly determine the optimal treatment course for an individual patient. The mainstay of GDMT in HFrEF patients remains angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-I), angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) when ACE-I-intolerant, beta-blockers, and, in select patients, AA, hydralazine-nitrates, and diuretics.
A major shift in focus is seen in the new guideline with a greater emphasis on improved patient-centered outcomes across the spectrum of the disease. HF requires a continuum of care, from screening and genetic testing of family members of patients with idiopathic cardiomyopathy to conversations about palliative care and hospice. To this end, the authors highlight quality of life, shared decision-making, care coordination, transitions of care, and appropriateness of palliative care in a chronic disease state.
Further, the guideline expands upon previous recommendations for compliance with performance and quality metrics. Quality of care and adherence to performance measures of HF patients are becoming increasingly recognized, particularly in the hospital setting. The guideline offers recommendations for transitions of care in the hospitalized patient, which utilize systems of care coordination to ensure an evidence-based plan of care that includes the achievement of GDMT goals, effective management of comorbid conditions, timely follow-up, and appropriate dietary and physical activities.
HF is one of the most common, most challenging diseases managed by hospitalists. The 2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the Management of HF, while providing a comprehensive summary of evidence with recommendations for the totality of care for these patients throughout the course of the disease, places heavy emphasis on management during hospitalization and transitions. This includes repositioning of performance measures involving GDMT to better ensure optimal use of proven therapies in HFrEF, evidence-based steps to reduce readmissions, and greater recognition of the role of palliative care for patients with advanced disease.
Drs. McIlvennan and Allen are cardiologists in the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. Dr. Allen also works in the Colorado Health Outcomes Program.
References available at the-hospitalist.org.