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Using telehealth to treat chronic heart failure patients

01 May, 2014

The ability of nurse-supported telehealth to efficiently enable the treatment of patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) could soon be realised, thanks to a new trial set up by researchers at Curtin University.

Dr Andrew Maiorana, Associate Professor at Curtin's School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science and lead investigator in the project, said an estimated 30,000 Australians were diagnosed with CHF every year, a major health and economic burden.

The trial which recently received necessary funding, will enable patients with CHF to be linked from their homes to health professionals via the internet and telecommunications technology.

"The cost of CHF to the healthcare system is more than $1 billion annually and much of this cost is associated with a high rate of hospital readmissions, many of which are preventable," Associate Professor Maiorana said.

"Telehealth has the potential to improve education, enhance self-management and increase surveillance for the many people with CHF who are managed in primary care. This would reduce their dependence on the public healthcare system.

"The nurse-supported telehealth project will examine whether the technology can reduce emergency department presentations, hospital admissions and number of bed days, as well as whether it is a cost effective and manageable tool for patients with CHF.

"We believe that it will be and is a viable option to reduce the economic burden to the WA health system and improve patient outcomes and quality of life."

The intervention will be patient-centred and will educate and support patients to self-manage their conditions.

A strong focus on coordinating care – by providing clinical information and support to GPs – will help with timely medical follow-ups and reduce hospital admissions.

Curtin received $350,000 over two years from the WA Department of Health Targeted Research Fund in support of the research.

Associate Professor Maiorana's proposal was submitted in response to a targeted call for applications around the topic of "Managing complex care in the primary care setting", an area identified as a priority by the WA Department of Health.

The project will be an extension of the existing SmartHeart: Living Well with Heart Failure service that operates in the Curtin Interprofessional Health and Wellness Clinic.

The project will be undertaken in collaboration with investigators from Royal Perth Hospital, WA Department of Health, Johns Hopkins University (USA), The George Institute for Global Health (Sydney) and Heart Foundation of WA.

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