Objective: To measure the effect of use of the HEART score on patient outcomes and use of health care resources.
Design: Stepped-wedge, cluster randomized trial. (Clinical Trials.gov: NCT01756846)
Setting: Emergency departments in 9 Dutch hospitals. Patients: Unselected patients with chest pain presenting at emergency departments in 2013 and 2014. Intervention: All hospitals started with usual care. Every 6 weeks, 1 hospital was randomly assigned to switch to "HEART care," during which physicians calculated the HEART score to guide patient management.
Measurements: For safety, a noninferiority margin of a 3.0% absolute increase in MACEs within 6 weeks was set. Other outcomes included use of health care resources, quality of life, and cost-effectiveness.
Results: A total of 3648 patients were included (1827 receiving usual care and 1821 receiving HEART care). Six-week incidence of MACEs during HEART care was 1.3% lower than during usual care (upper limit of the 1-sided 95% CI, 2.1% [within the noninferiority margin of 3.0%]). In low-risk patients, incidence of MACEs was 2.0% (95% CI, 1.2% to 3.3%). No statistically significant differences in early discharge, readmissions, recurrent emergency department visits, outpatient visits, or visits to general practitioners were observed. Limitation: Physicians were hesitant to refrain from admission and diagnostic tests in patients classified as low risk by the HEART score. Conclusion: Using the HEART score during initial assessment of patients with chest pain is safe, but the effect on health care resources is limited, possibly due to nonadherence to management recommendations.