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Spirituality can significantly improve the quality of life for patients with heart failure who are receiving palliative care, a new study finds. Clinicians should consider spirituality as a potential target for improving patient-centered, clinical outcomes in these patients, the authors contend.

In a review of 47 articles, investigators found that spirituality not only positively impacts daily life for these patients, but that it also can help support caregivers, potentially reduce hospital readmissions and improve mortality outcomes. 

“Patients who have heart failure experience a poorer quality of life compared to their peers, with high levels of depression, anxiety and spiritual distress,” said lead author Rachel S. Tobin, M.D., of Duke University Hospital. “Contributing to diminished quality of life is the fact that heart failure, unlike many other chronic diseases, is very unpredictable and can lead to hopelessness, isolation and altered self-image.”

Uniform measures and further studies are needed to better understand spirituality in heart failure, she and her colleagues wrote.

To that end, the team is working to develop a spirituality screening tool, similar to depression screening tools. “This can be used to identify heart failure patients in palliative care who are at risk for spiritual distress,” Tobin said.

The study was published in JACC: Heart Failure.