Home care workers in heart failure: a systematic review.
Background: Home care workers (HCWs), which include home health aides and personal care aides, are increasingly used by heart failure (HF) patients for post-acute care and long-term assistance. Despite their growing presence, they have largely been left out of HF research and interventions. This systematic review was aimed to 1) describe utilization patterns of HCWs by adults with HF, 2) examine the effect of HCWs on HF outcomes, and 3) review HF interventions that involve HCWs. Methods: Five electronic databases (Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid EMBASE, Cochrane Library [Wiley], CINAHL [EBSCO], and AgeLine [EBSCO]) were searched from inception through August 4, 2017. The yield was screened using prespecified inclusion and exclusion criteria. Two authors independently reviewed references and a third reviewer acted as an arbitrator when needed. Data were extracted from articles that met the inclusion criteria. The Downs and Black checklist was used for quality assessment. Due to study heterogeneity, a narrative synthesis was conducted. Results: Of the 7,032 studies screened, 13 underwent full-text review, and six met the inclusion criteria. Two descriptive studies found that adults with HF who live alone and have functional and cognitive deficits utilize HCWs. While three retrospective cohort studies examined the association between having an HCW post-HF hospitalization and readmission rates, their findings were conflicting. One quasi-experimental study found that an HCW-delivered educational intervention improved HF patients' self-care abilities. Overall, despite some significant findings, the studies assessed were of poor-to-fair quality (Downs and Black score range: 10-16 [28 total points]), with most lacking methodological rigor. Conclusion: Although HCWs are quite common, the literature on these paraprofessionals in HF is limited. Given the paucity of research in this area and the low quality of studies reviewed here, additional research is warranted on the potential role of HCWs in HF self-care and on outcomes among adults with HF.