March 10, 2008 -- Heart attack survivors may do better at taking vital medications if they get follow-up care and a reminder letter.
That's the bottom line from two new studies published in today's edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
That study included 836 U.S. heart attack survivors with prescriptions for beta-blockers. Half of them got two letters, sent two months apart, about the importance of taking beta-blockers. For comparison, the other half of the group didn't get any reminder letters.
During the nine-month study, patients who got the reminder letters were more likely to fill their beta-blocker prescriptions. They were 17% more likely than patients in the comparison group to have their beta-blocker prescription filled at least 80% of the time.
The findings are "encouraging," write the researchers, who included David Smith, RPh, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente Northwest's Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.
The improvement in filling beta-blocker prescriptions was "relatively modest," but "even a small improvement" is likely to be helpful, notes editorialist Edward Havranek, MD, of Denver Health Medical Center's cardiology division.
Care After Heart Attack
The second study stresses the importance of getting follow-up care after a heart attack -- ideally, with the patient's primary care physician and cardiologist collaborating on that care.
The study shows that 1,516 U.S. heart attack survivors were more likely to get beta-blocker prescriptions if they got early follow-up care after their heart attack.
"These results suggest that outpatient follow-up, including collaborative follow-up within the first weeks after [heart attack], may result in higher-quality patient care," write the researchers, who included Stacie Daugherty, MD, MSPH, of the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center.
The study shows a "clear benefit" from follow-up care, writes editorialist Elizabeth Jackson, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan Health System's cardiovascular medicine division.