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Improved guideline adherence to pharmacotherapy of chronic systolic heart failure in general practice – results from a cluster-randomized controlled trial of implementation of a clinical practice guideline


Frank Peters-Klimm
Department of General Practice and Health Services Research
University Hospital Heidelberg
Vosstraße 2
69115 Heidelberg


Rationale and aims  Clinical practice guidelines (CPG) reflect the evidence of effective pharmacotherapy of chronic (systolic) heart failure (CHF) which needs to be implemented. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of a new, multifaceted intervention (educational train-the-trainer course plus pharmacotherapy feedback = TTT) compared with standard education on guideline adherence (GA) in general practice.

Method  Thirty-seven participating general practitioners (GPs) were randomized (18 vs. 19) and included 168 patients with ascertained symptomatic CHF [New York Heart Association (NYHA) II-IV]. Groups received CPG, the TTT intervention consisted of four interactive educational meetings and a pharmacotherapy feedback, while the control group received a usual lecture (Standard). Outcome measure was GA assessed by prescription rates and target dosing of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (ACE-I) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), beta-blockers (BB) and aldosterone antagonists (AA) at baseline and 7-month follow-up. Group comparisons at follow-up were adjusted to GA, sex, age and NYHA stage at baseline.

Results  Prescription rates at baseline (n = 168) were high (ACE-I/ARB 90, BB 79 and AA 29%) in both groups. At follow up (n = 146), TTT improved compared with Standard regarding AA (43% vs. 23%, P = 0.04) and the rates of reached target doses of ACE-I/ARB (28% vs. 15%, P = 0.04). TTT group achieved significantly higher mean percentages of daily target dose (52% vs. 42%, mean difference 10.3%, 95% CI 0.84–19.8, P = 0.03).

Conclusion  Despite of pre-existing high GA in both groups and an active control group, the multifaceted intervention was effective in quality of care measured by GA. Further research is needed on the choice of interventions in different provider populations.