National Heart Foundation Calls for a Coordinated Approach to Manage Heart Failure

By Petrina Smith
Monday, 04 August, 2014

Too many Australians are suffering and dying from chronic heart failure due to a disjointed national approach to managing the debilitating condition, according to the Heart Foundation.
The Heart Foundation is calling on governments, policy makers, clinical networks and clinicians to work together to improve the system of care following the release of their consensus statement in the Medical Journal of Australia, which outlines a number of areas for action to improve the health system.
Among the actions listed in the paper, the National Heart Foundation is calling for:

  • Development and  and implementation of a national policy framework with agreement between states, territories and the federal government addressing the core principles and recommendations

  • A risk assessment tool that stratifies patients at higher risk of readmission could be used to ensure those most likely to benefit from a management program are targeted.

  • GPs be empowered to lead care for patients with chronic heart failure. This may be through the introduction of funding incentives or provision of nurse practitioners and practice nurses in primary care.

Around 300,000 Australians are living with heart failure, and every year around another 30,000 people are newly diagnosed with the debilitating condition.
The Heart Foundation’s National Director of Cardiovascular Health Dr Robert Grenfell, said many people don’t realise the impact of heart failure on a person’s quality of life.
“Heart failure sufferers experience rapid breathing and a terrifying feeling of not being able to get enough air,” Dr Grenfell said. "Living with heart failure can be devastating, as everyday activities, like showering, walking or doing the shopping can become exhausting. The sense of fatigue is overwhelming, reducing the enjoyment of day to day activities."
Co-author and Chair of the expert working group Professor Tom Marwick said poor recognition of the chronic disease and frequent hospital admissions need to be addressed.
“It’s a chronic disease and one of the leading causes of hospital readmissions – as many as one in five people will return to hospital within one month of their last admission,” Prof Marwick said. “It’s a huge burden on the healthcare system, yet there are a number of opportunities that could improve the quality of care received and reduce costs for the individual and the community.“This is a major public health issue. Despite significant advances, health outcomes
are poor for people with heart failure and the financial and emotional costs are incredibly high."
More than 45,000 Australians were hospitalised due to chronic heart failure between 2009 and 2010, equating to more than 360,000 bed days, costing the national economy an estimated $1 billion per year.
“There is convincing evidence that, among people who have been hospitalised with chronic heart failure, those who receive evidence-based multidisciplinary care have better health outcomes than those who do not,” Prof Marwick said.
Women making up about 60 per cent of cases and death rates from the disease are rising, with a 20 per cent increase between 2006 and 2011.
Mother of four, Joanne Pinter was diagnosed with chronic heart failure in 2012 after becoming seriously ill during her fourth pregnancy. She was only 31 years old. Joanne seemed otherwise fit and healthy when she suddenly began struggling to breathe at 34 weeks pregnant. Her daughter Willow was delivered by emergency caesarean and Joanne was placed in a medically induced coma. When her condition stabilised, doctors discovered Jo had chronic heart failure.
“It was an incredibly scary experience, I felt like I was suffocating. I was terrified for the health of my unborn child and terrified for my children watching me go through such an ordeal. I had never heard of heart failure and now I have a pacemaker in my chest that keeps me alive,” Joanne said.
Sadly, for mild-moderate heart failure, 20-30 per cent of patients die within one year, and for severe heart failure 50 per cent of patients die within one year.
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