Design and rationale of a randomized trial: Using short stay units instead of routine admission to improve patient centered health outcomes for acute heart failure patients (SSU-AHF)

Hannah Fish-Trotter, Sean P. Collins, Shooshan Danagoulian, Benton Hunter, Xiaochun Li, Phillip D. Levy, Frank Messina, Susan Pressler, Peter S. Pang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Nearly 85% of acute heart failure (AHF) patients who present to the emergency department (ED) with acute heart failure are hospitalized. Once hospitalized, within 30 days post-discharge, 27% of patients are re-hospitalized or die. Attempts to improve outcomes with novel therapies have all failed. The evidence for existing AHF therapies are poor: No currently used AHF treatment is known to improve long-term outcomes. ED treatment is largely the same today as 40 years ago. Admitting patients who could have avoided hospitalization may contribute to adverse outcomes. Hospitalization is not benign; patients enter a vulnerable phase post-discharge, at increased risk for morbidity and mortality. When hospitalization is able to be shortened or avoid completely, certain risks can be mitigated, including risk of medication errors, in-hospital falls, delirium, nosocomial infections, and other iatrogenic complications. Additionally, patients would prefer to be home, not hospitalized. Furthermore, hospitalization and re-hospitalization for AHF predominantly affects patients of lower socioeconomic status (SES). Avoiding hospitalization in patients who do not require admission may improve outcomes and quality of life, while reducing costs. Short stay unit (SSU: <24 h, also referred to as an ‘observation unit’) management of AHF may be effective for lower risk patients. However, to date there have only been small studies or retrospective analyses on the SSU management for AHF patients. In addition, SSU management has been considered ‘cheating’ for hospitals trying to avoid 30-day readmission penalties, as SSUs or observation units do not count as an admission. However, more recent analyses demonstrate differential use of observation status has not led to decreases in re-admission, suggesting this concern may be misplaced. Thus, we propose a robust clinical effectiveness trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of this patient-centered strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-145
Number of pages9
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials
StatePublished - Sep 2018



  • Acute heart failure
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Emergency department
  • Quality of life
  • Short stay unit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)

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