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Innovative HCF funded project enhances heart failure treatment for regional Australians

HCF 4 mins read

MONDAY, 24 JUNE 2024: The HCF Research Foundation, Australia’s leading non-government funder of health services research is funding an innovative project led by Professor Andrea Driscoll from Deakin University and Austin Health, through its Translational Research Grants (TRG) scheme.

The ‘I-HEART: Implementation of Heart Failure Guidelines in Regional Australia’ project aims to enhance heart failure care for patients in regional and rural patients using advanced telehealth services and nurse-led clinics.

Heart failure is a significant health challenge in Australia, particularly for those living in regional and rural areas,1 with mortality rates 16 percent higher in rural areas compared to urban centres.2

The I-HEART initiative is bridging this gap by improving access to heart specialists and ensuring patient receive the right therapies, ultimately reducing re-hospitalisations and improving quality of life for regional Australians diagnosed with heart failure.

"So often, heart failure patients aren’t on the right medications,” said Professor Driscoll. “We know from research findings that only 6.9 percent of patients hospitalised with heart failure received all recommended heart failure therapies.3 Getting patients on the right therapies will improve outcomes," Professor Driscoll said.

Since it launched in 2022, the I-HEART project has implemented over 30 decision support tools and established two nurse-led heart failure clinics. The initiative focuses on creating seamless, integrated care and building workforce capacity by collaborating with six regional hospitals.

"These efforts have significantly bolstered self-management among heart failure patients," Professor Driscoll said.

The initiative's success is underscored by its educational outreach. More than 25 workshops have been held, training over 270 health professionals in heart failure management.

"Through our workshops, we've increased the workforce capacity significantly," said Professor Driscoll.

Telehealth has been a game-changer, especially for those living in regional and rural areas where heart failure patients previously lacked specialist care. Patients are seen within a week of hospital discharge and then weekly for five weeks to prevent readmission," Professor Driscoll said.

This structured follow-up, along with its co-design approach, has been key to the program's success. By involving hospital executives, clinicians, local health professionals, and patients, the program is designed to meet specific community needs.

"It really needs to be tailored to the local environment," Professor Driscoll said. "What's done in regional hospitals is really different from metro areas."

Despite challenges such as staffing costs, connectivity issues, and natural disasters like floods, the benefits far outweigh the obstacles.

"If you implement the telehealth clinic and fund a coordinator, the cost savings from reduced hospitalisations can cover the clinic's expenses," Professor Driscoll said.

The program has also introduced essential interventions such as iron infusions, further reducing hospitalisations and generating additional funding.

Dr Chris Pettigrew, Head of the HCF Research Foundation, highlighted the broader impact of such initiatives.

"A rising tide lifts all boats," Dr Pettigrew said.

"Developing care models that get people out of hospital earlier, and keep them out by reducing readmissions, frees up beds for other patients and benefits the entire health system. It's about increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and getting the right care to patients who need it most."

The success of the I-HEART program demonstrates the transformative potential of targeted, well-supported research initiatives.

“By leveraging telehealth and local expertise, this project is making a tangible difference in the lives of heart failure patients in regional Australia, offering a model that could benefit communities nationwide,” Dr Pettigrew said.

For more information on the HCF Research Foundation and its initiatives, visit https://www.hcf.com.au/about-us/hcf-foundation.

ENDS

REFERENCES

  1. Rural Health Alliance. (2015, May). Cardiovascular disease fact sheet. Retrieved from cardiovascular-disease-fact-sheet-may-2015.pdf (ruralhealth.org.au)
  2. Teng T-HK, Katzenellenbogen JM, Hung J, Knuiman M, Sanfilippo FM et al. Rural–urban differentials in 30-day and 1-year mortality following first-ever heart failure hospitalisation in Western Australia. BMJ Open, 2014; 4(5): e004724. https://doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004724
  3. Driscoll A, et al. Impact of Individual Patient Profiles on Adherence to Guideline Directed Medical Therapy in Heart Failure With Reduced Ejection Fraction: VCOR-HF Study. Heart, Lung and Circulation (2020), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hlc.2020.04.012

 


Key Facts:

 

Heart failure is a life-threatening chronic disease, in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood around the body.1

More than 100,000 Australians are living with heart failure, many unaware.2

Approximately one Australian dies from heart failure every three hours.3

 

REFERENCES

1. Heart Foundation, Conditions: Heart Failure. 

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020, Cardiovascular disease.

3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020, October 23). Causes of Death, Australia, 2019. cat. no. 3303.0.


About us:

ABOUT THE HCF RESEARCH FOUNDATION

The HCF Research Foundation’s mission is to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for HCF members and all Australians by providing funding and support to encourage health services research for the benefit of all. Now in its 24th year, the HCF Research Foundation (the Foundation) is uniquely focused on supporting health services research, an area of research that does not receive significant fundings from other sources. The Foundation’s program aims to address issues of scale and significance in healthcare and to make a tangible impact in the delivery of health services for our members and all Australians. To learn more about the Foundation go to hcf.com.au/about-us/hcf-foundation

 

ABOUT HCF

HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund protecting Australians since 1932, covers almost 2 million members with health and life insurance, travel, pet, home and car insurance. HCF has been awarded Outstanding Value Health Insurance by Canstar eight years in a row from 2016-2023. On average over the last ten years, HCF has paid out more cents in every dollar in premiums to members as benefits than the industry average. To learn more about HCF go to hcf.com.au/about-us


Contact details:

Joni Thomes 0475 576 738 or jthomes@hcf.com.au

Interviews available with Profesor Andrea Driscoll, Dr Chris Pettigrew and a participant in the I-HEART program.

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