Many Australian heart patients not receiving best practice care

Many people are not receiving the best possible care when it comes to managing cardiovascular or heart conditions, revealed by researchers.

The 2 new studies highlight the need for wide scale reform to ensure that people at the highest risk of having a heart attack or stroke are identified early and are provided with optimal care.

Around 50% of people over 30 years old did not have sufficient risk factor information recorded to assess their overall risk of a heart attack or stroke. Among people who were assessed as high risk, only 20% were prescribed all recommended treatments in mainstream general practice.

The research suggests that GPs are still managing individual risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol in isolation of one another, and are not adopting recommendations to treat a patient’s overall or absolute risk. Absolute risk management is based on the principle that the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease act together. By taking this approach treatment can be targeted to those most likely to benefit.

“These findings suggest we have not equipped our primary care workforce with the necessary tools to implement best practice standards for preventing cardiovascular disease. It is simply not possible to assess a patient’s overall risk of future heart attack or stroke based on any one risk factor. The current resources available to adequately manage risk are clearly not working”, said Dr David Peiris, Senior Research Fellow at The George Institute, GP and an author on both studies.

The studies will be published in Medical Journal of Australia.

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Cardiovascular diseases remain Australia’s largest health problem and kill one Australian nearly every 10 minutes. Indigenous Australians are 2.6 times more likely to die from heart, stroke and other vascular diseases compared to non-Indigenous Australians and these diseases make a major contribution to the life expectancy gap.

Source: Research Australia, Australia

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