Texas Hospital Saves Money and Lives

James Rust
James Rust, who checked out from Baylor University Medical Center after nearly dying from congestive heart failure.

Eight days after nearly dying of congestive heart failure, James Rust is checking out of Baylor University Medical Center, much to his wife's relief.

"Had you'd seen him a week ago you probably thought you'd be attending his funeral on Tuesday," said Gloria Rust.

Fully recovering will be a long road.

Nationwide, one out of every four heart failure patients must be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, reports CBS News correspondent Don Teague.

But for Rust, the odds are greatly improved.

The readmission rate for Baylor heart patients like Rust is just 15.9 percent, the lowest in the nation.

"We make certain, almost from the beginning that we're planning for the discharge," said Dr. Clyde Yancy.

Yancy credits a commitment to quality for Baylor's remarkably low readmissions - and something else.

Strict follow up and education for heart patients.

Nurse Mae Centeno runs Baylor's outpatient heart clinic which provides weekly checkups for discharged patients and teaches patients to identify signs of trouble, like rapid weight gain, or shortness of breath.

"We have to provide them with the necessary tools that they need so they can take care of themselves," Centeno said.

The program is so proactive that when Centeno discovered many of her patients didn't have weighing scales at home, she used a $20,000 grant to buy hundreds of scales with dramatic results.

"By providing patients a weighing scale we were able to reduce our 30 day readmission rate by 50 percent," Centeno said.

Cutting readmission rates in half because patients could see immediately if they were gaining weight in a dangerous way.

Baylor credits its heart failure program with saving hundreds of lives over the last three years but it also saves money because patients who receive proper care and follow up are much less likely to find themselves back in the hospital.

This hospital has saved on average $1,800 per heart patient. Results that would save $1.8 billion nationwide if applied to the 1 million people who are hospitalized for heart failure yearly.

"What the Baylor folks have done is recognize that they're taking care of not just diseased hearts but they're taking care of human beings," said Dr. Thomas Lee, a professor at Harvard Medical School.

People like James Rust, who hopefully won't be back in the hospital anytime soon.