Chest pain can be a challenging complaint to manage in the emergency department. A missed diagnosis can result in significant morbidity or mortality, whereas avoidable testing and hospitalizations can lead to increased health care costs, contribute to hospital crowding, and increase risks to patients. The HEART score is a validated decision aid to identify patients at low risk for acute coronary syndrome who can be safely discharged without admission or objective cardiac testing. In the largest and one of the longest studies to date (N = 31,060; 30 months), we included the HEART score into a larger, newly developed low-risk chest pain decision pathway, using a retrospective observational pre/post study design with the objective of safely lowering admissions. The modified HEART score calculation tool was incorporated in our electronic medical record. A significant increase in discharges of low-risk chest pain patients (relative increase of 21%; p < 0.0001) in the postimplementation period was observed with no significant difference in the rates of major adverse cardiac events between the pre and post periods. There was a decrease in the amount of return admissions for 30 days (4.65% fewer; p = 0.009) and 60 days (3.78% fewer; p = 0.020). No significant difference in length of stay was observed for patients who were ultimately discharged. A 64% decrease in monthly coronary computed tomography angiograms was observed in the post period (p < 0.0001). These findings support the growing consensus in the literature that the adoption of the HEART pathway or similar protocols in emergency departments, including at large and high-volume medical institutions, can substantially benefit patient care and reduce associated health care costs.
From the *Department of Emergency Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
†Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
‡The Sebastian Ferrero Office of Clinical Quality and Patient Safety, UF Health Shands Hospital, Gainesville, FL.
Received for publication February 23, 2018; accepted May 10, 2018.
Reprints: Brandon R. Allen, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. E-mail: email@example.com.