As medical advances prolong life and help people survive heart attacks, more people end up living with congestive heart failure. This is a chronic disease where the heart muscle is weakened and cannot meet the needs of the body. It affects more than 6.5 million adults in the U.S. and is estimated to cost the country $35 billion in health care costs each year. For congestive heart failure patients, nearly 80% of these health care costs result from hospitalization. The personal costs are high too. Nearly half of those who develop and are diagnosed with congestive heart failure will die within five years.
When these patients are hospitalized and then discharged, nearly half end up back in the hospital within 90 days. One reason is because intermittent visits to health care professionals may miss signs of deteriorating conditions. Another reason is that patients do not always take medications as prescribed nor monitor themselves. Despite physician recommendations, fewer than 10% of congestive heart failure patients monitor themselves for symptoms of deterioration.