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National push to stop repeat heart attacks

The George Institute for Global Health and the Heart Foundation are calling for reforms in healthcare to try to reduce the number of repeat heart attacks. By Aileen Macalintal.

They have presented a five-point plan, part of which is to improve teamwork between health professionals.

A government-supported national taskforce is to be formed to raise the importance of the issue. More than 10,000 Australians died of heart attacks in 2010; more than half of these were associated with repeat events, which cost Australia more than $8.4 billion.

“The taskforce will be made up of representatives from national stakeholder groups in order to unite all those involved in the care and management of these people,” said Dr Julie Redfern, senior research fellow at the George Institute. The institute conducts research in about 50 countries and has bases in Australia, the UK, India and China.

Redfern said nurses, doctors, and other health professionals including allied health and indigenous health workers are part of this reform. She said they can promote ongoing adherence to prescribed medicines and lifestyle strategies, and emphasise how important this is. “Within existing capacity in their everyday roles, the provision of ongoing support, follow-up and reinforcement is crucial if we are to close the evidence-practice gap.”

“Ideally, patients should attend a preventive program, such as cardiac rehabilitation, and be supported to change their behaviour for the long-term. That could include referring to allied health professionals such as dieticians, psychologists and physiotherapists via chronic disease management plans,” said Redfern.

The team will also manage information and support services including interactive websites, access to resources, health professional advice, and online registries. The blueprint for reform includes developing and implementing a national approach to secondary heart attack prevention. It also seeks to bridge the gap between hospital and primary care since some heart attack survivors neglect their medication after the first episode.

“At present, many patients stop taking prescribed medicines and less than 30 per cent of those eligible attend cardiac rehabilitation programs,” said Redfern, who is also a clinical senior lecturer at Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney.

The blueprint aims to make a more streamlined and co-ordinated transition from hospital to home, and provide ongoing support and reinforcement for people with heart disease. To reduce repeat heart attacks, the plan is also to develop a system for monitoring and maintaining performance, implement a sustainable communication strategy, increase patients’ awareness, and enhance use of existing services.

The risk of death from a repeat attack is high: 20.7 per cent for women, 13.7 per cent for men.
One out of four people who have had a heart attack will likely have another, according to key health groups that published the report Blueprint for Reform in the Medical Journal of Australia.

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