Experts unveil key to beating repeat heart attacks

Ahead of the world’s largest cardiology conference, being held in Australia from 4-7 May 2014, leading organisations from the nation’s Secondary Prevention Alliance have proposed the introduction of a set of key initiatives required to combat the burden of repeat heart attacks as the nation struggles to curb the cardiovascular disease crisis crippling the nation.

Experts claim the adoption of a cohesive cardiac care approach will be key to Australia achieving a 25% reduction in the burden of repeat heart attacks by 2025, in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative to reduce the risk of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease by 25% by 2025. Achieving this reduction could save the nation in excess of $2.1 billion in healthcare costs, save the lives of over 1,880 Australians and result in 7,790 less hospitalisations.

The cost of repeat heart attacks in Australia is enormous at $8.4 billion per year. However, while significant steps have been taken to prevent people having a first heart attack, efforts to reduce repeat heart attacks have for the most part remained substandard.

According to Associate Professor Julie Redfern of The George Institute and The University of Sydney, Australians who have had a heart attack deserve better, and the implementation of a coordinated national approach to cardiac care highlights key areas of action required to reverse the repeat heart attack burden. 

“Achieving systemic change in the management of coronary heart disease requires a long-term commitment from a range of stakeholders including Government, the clinical community and patients themselves,” said Dr Redfern.

“The introduction of a cohesive set of initiatives could certainly facilitate this change in order to tackle the burden of repeat heart attacks and serve as a critical step to reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease by 25% by 2025. We hope to have constructive dialogue with government and others with a stake in heart health of how to do this,” she said.

“The sad fact remains that far too many Australians have to contend with the consequences of heart disease without adequate support. Too many people are dying and having repeat hospital admissions unnecessarily. Coupled with a health system under strain and in need of support to tackle the growing incidences of heart disease in this country, the reality is, without a coherent plan to adequately manage heart attack survivors, more lives will be put at risk,” she cautioned.

Proposed initiatives would include:

  • Improving patient medication and lifestyle compliance - ensuring people receive guideline-recommended medications and support to stay on these after hospitalisation . 
  • Improving patient support networks and referral to services for heart attack survivors after they leave hospital.
  • Making standardised care plans mandatory for all heart attack survivors 
  • Empowering patients to manage what is a life-long chronic disease through better patient resources. 
  • Looking at systematic improvements such as the establishment of a national Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) registry. 
  • Exploring the potential of a GP incentive scheme to improve care when patients leave hospital. 

The National Heart Foundation’s National Director of Cardiovascular Health, Dr Rob Grenfell, said, “There’s no quick fix solution to cardiovascular disease in this country but a long-term, consistent patient management approach adopted nationally is an important step in stopping heart attack survivors from falling between the cracks in the system and keep them well long- term.

“A coordinated and holistic approach is part of a smart solution to a complex but critical problem. I would urge Government and policy makers to consider the enormous potential cost saving for every heart attack they prevent through effective secondary prevention.”