Simple phone calls can help a heart patient recover

New study reveals importance of collaborative care for depression, anxiety


It's not uncommon for someone to become depressed after having a heart attack or being diagnosed with heart disease. But a new study finds getting regular phone calls, in a collaborative effort from a team of caregivers, can help lift a heart patient's spirits and improve their recovery process.

"It's anchored in the collaborative care, which means that mental health professionals are going to be working with the primary care and the cardiologist and the other sub-specialties. This type of integrated care really is the model going forward for delivering care. I think that what they showed very nicely is that even by telephone intervention you can positive results," explained Dr. Leo Pozuelo, who did not take part in this study but treats heart patients at Cleveland Clinic.

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers studied the effects of "collaborative care" on 183 people. All of them either had a heart attack, an irregular heartbeat, or heart failure. Half the group received regular phone calls from a team of social workers and psychiatrists, while the others received usual care. The phone calls went on for 24-weeks after their diagnosis to evaluate their levels of depression and anxiety, provide support, and to intervene, when necessary.

Results show those who were in the collaborative care group had greater average improvement in their mental health at 24 weeks than those who received the usual care given to heart patients. They also reported better symptom improvement and functioned better. Researchers say the collaborative, or "shared care" approach is easily implemented and may make a significant difference in recovery. Pozuelo agrees.

"What this study is doing is building upon other studies that have been done looking at the collaborative care model," said Pozuelo. "What's beautiful is that it is so low-tech, it's so simple in delivering that it really should garner the attention of health care providers."

Read more about the study "Collaborative Care for Depression and Anxiety Disorders in Patients with Recent Cardiac Events" in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.