Evidence-based practice in Establishing Care Plans for the Home Health Patient: CHF

Evidenced – based practice is considered the best available evidence derived from systematic research, clinical experience, and tested expertise to achieve expected and/or improved patient outcomes (Institute for Healthcare Improvement, 2008 ). The new protocols for surveyors have moved the focus to data – driven and outcome – oriented (CMS, 2011) and the need to establish a well defined plan of care foreshadows the need to follow evidence – based practices for specific diseases to achieve the expected outcomes (even though, at this time, CMS has not yet mandated their use). The following are evidenced based practice SmartCues to remind the clinician as to specific processes/interventions to be considered in planning care.

A Focus on CHF

To significantly improve care, impact the quality of life, and reduce emergent and inpatient admissions several diagnoses require aggressive attention.  That attention requires evidenced based interventions.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

Chief symptoms of CHF are dyspnea and fatigue which limits tolerance to exercise and promotes fluid retention that leads to pulmonary congestion and dependent edema. Because volume overload is not always seen at the time of evaluation, sometimes the term heart failure is used instead of congestive heart failure.

CHF effects over 5.5 predominately elderly individuals with 660,000 new cases diagnosed annually. According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, CHF is the underlying cause for 12-15 million office visits and 6.5 million hospital days per year. It ranks as the primary and secondary diagnoses for all hospitalizations over the age of 65. The financial burden is in excess of $40 billion dollars annually (AHA, 2008, 2009).

It is reported by CMS that “inadequate treatment, discharge planning, and follow-up, many patients with CHF are caught in a ‘revolving door’ process” leading to rehospitalization (Jencks, S, CMS, 2005).

Home health care plan intervention per HHQI, the American Heart Association, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute would include the following SmartCues. (However, all plans of care should be approved by the patient’s physician):

Symptom: Assess for shortness of breath (dyspnea).

Instruct patient to identify its triggers.

Clinician should reassess each visit.

Instruct patient to identify activity daily and/or number of feet walked before dyspnea occurs. Consider Physical Therapy referral for muscle strengthening exercises for legs and upper arms. Teach exercise safety. Teach energy conservation when appropriate.

Clinician should note baseline and assess activity levels and dyspnea changes each visit.

Instruct patient in energy conservation to achieve ADLs life quality.

Clinician should note baseline and progress each visit.

Instruct patient to identify any change in number of propped pillows needed to breathe comfortably when lying down.

Clinician should note baseline and changes each visit.

Instruct patient how to identify changes in symptamotology.

Clinician should assess each visit and note progress each visit. This symptom as well as increased orthopnea is usually an intermediate sign of fluid retention and per HHQI, “intervention at this point could still prevent rehospitalization.”

Instruct patient when to contact clinician or physician. Instruct as to utilization of and safety aspects of O2, if ordered by physician.

Clinician should verify any occurrence each visit and identify S3 and S4. Assess for any new or recurrent dysrhythmias or murmurs. Per HHQI, “changes in heart rhythm can lead to poor cardiac output and worsening heart failure. Note: Extra sounds can be a warning of impending heart failure exacerbation.” Clinician to also assess lung sounds to identify any changes or note wheezes, crackles, rhonchi, or diminished breath sounds.

Clinician should discuss with physician; pneumococcal vaccination and influenza immunization.

Instruct patient re proper technique to obtain B/P and heart rate (pulse).

Clinician should obtain B/P sitting/standing, Heart Rate (HR), Respiratory Rate (RR), and Jugular Venous distension each visit.

Instruct patient re how to assess every day.

Clinician to obtain baseline and assess fluid retention (focus on feet/ankles, hands, sacrum, scrotal area, and abdomen) each visit.

Instruct patient to weigh self daily and when to alert home health agency.

Clinician should weigh patient and measure abdominal girth each visit.

Instruct patient to report decreased urinary output.

Clinician to monitor at each visit as this is a signal of potential impending renal failure, or heart failure decomposition, or the body’s attempt to increase blood pressure.

Instruct patient on physician ordered low-fat, low-sodium diet and to record days of lowered appetite, as well as when to contact the clinician.

Clinician should assess patient appetite each visit and if diminished appetite is reported, verify if there is abdominal fluid retention which could cause feelings of fullness and satiety.

Instruct patient as to psychosocial coping skills to maintain optimum self care-management.

Clinician should assess for symptoms of depression on each visit as well as assess family and support systems.

Instruct patient as to negative effects on health. Encourage regular exercise as tolerated and commensurate with stamina and endurance.

Clinician should ask re smoking and discourage both first and second-hand smoke.

Instruct patient on medication management. Meds may include an Angiotension Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitor, a beta blocker, diuretic if needed, digoxin, and an anticoagulant.

Clinician will monitor medication safety and compliance and should seek blood chemistry results and INR (as ordered by physician) and obtain heart rate, B/P, and clinical status with each dosage change.


CMS Appendix B Guidelines for Surveyors

HHQI Best Practice Intervention Practice, 8SOW-PA-HHQ07 467 App, 1/2008,61.aspx

Heart and Ling Sounds by 3M

Decision Support Tool: Heart Failure Publication # 8SOW-PA-HH05.187

One Response to “Evidence-based practice in Establishing Care Plans for the Home Health Patient: CHF”

  1. Jo Marie Elkema says:

    I’m looking for a set of standard orders for home health patients. Every site gives relatively the same information, but I was wondering if anyone put standing orders together for the home health arena?
    Many thanks for help.

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