Assessment of Studies of Quality Improvement Strategies to Enhance Outcomes in Patients With Cardiovascular Disease

Importance: Clinical care quality improvement (QI) strategies are critical to prevent and control cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, there is limited evidence regarding which components of the health system-, clinician-, and patient-based QI strategies contribute to their impact on CVD.

Objectives: To identify, map, and organize evidence on the effectiveness and implementation of cardiovascular QI strategies that seek to improve outcomes in patients with CVD.

Evidence review: Eight electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, the Cochrane Library, ProQuest,, and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform) were searched for studies published between January 1, 2009, and October 25, 2019. Eligible study designs included randomized trials and preintervention and postintervention evaluations. Descriptive findings of included studies were reported using several frameworks to map the intervention components stratified by target population, setting, outcomes, and overall results.

Findings: From 8066 screened titles and abstracts, 456 unique studies with 150 148 unique patients (38.1% women and 61.9% men; mean [SD] age, 64.6 [7.1] years) were identified, including 427 randomized trials, 21 quasi-randomized studies, and 8 preintervention and postintervention studies. Of 336 studies from 45 countries that were classified, 255 (75.9%) were from high-income countries; 68 (20.2%), upper-middle-income countries; 13 (3.9%), lower-middle-income countries; and 0, low-income countries, with diverse clinical settings and target patient populations (post-myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure). Patient support (311 studies), information communication technology (ICT) for health (78 studies), community support (18 studies), supervision (15 studies), and high-intensity training (14 studies) were the most commonly evaluated QI strategies. Other strategies were group problem-solving (7 studies), printed information (5 studies), strengthening infrastructure (4 studies), and financial incentives (3 studies). Patient support, ICT for health, training, and community support were strategies that had been evaluated the most for clinical end points and showed modest associations with several clinical outcomes. The other strategies did not have outcome-driven evaluations reported. Group problem-solving was associated with improved patient self-care and quality of life. Strengthening infrastructure was associated with improved treatment satisfaction. Printed information and financial incentives showed no meaningful effect.

Conclusions and relevance: This systematic review found that substantial variations exist in the types, effectiveness, and implementation of QI strategies for patients with CVD. A comprehensive map of QI strategies created by this study would be useful for researchers to identify where new knowledge is needed to improve cardiovascular outcomes. Outcome-driven evaluations and long-term studies are needed, particularly in low-income settings, to better understand the effects of QI strategies on prevention and control of CVD.