Background In 2010, guidelines published by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) suggested a change in the way patients with stable chest pain of suspected cardiac origin were investigated. These guidelines removed exercise treadmill testing from routine use and introduced cardiac CT to regular use.
Objective To investigate whether these guidelines had improved our service provision by reducing the number of further investigations required to make a diagnosis, and to see if our costs had increased now that the less expensive exercise treadmill tests were not recommended.
Methods Clinic letters were used to assess patients pretest likelihood of coronary artery disease for two six-month cohorts of consecutive patients seen in the rapid access chest pain clinic (January–June 2010 and July–December 2011) using NICE published methodology, and to ascertain which investigations patients had. Using NICE modelled costs, we generated comparative hypothetical costs for each cohort and an average cost per patient.
Results In the January–June 2010 cohort, 435 patients with chest pain were seen, and in July–December 2011, 334 patients were seen. In the pre-NICE guidelines cohort, 23% of patients required two investigations as compared with 11.4% in the post-NICE guidelines cohort, with no patient requiring three investigations as compared with 3% in the original cohort. There was no significant increase in costs per patient in the post-NICE guidance group.
Conclusions Implementing NICE guidance reduced the number of investigations needed per patient, and did not prove more expensive for our department in the short term.
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