Major boost for Victorian heart care

Two major health grants for Deakin aim to improve outcomes for heart failure patients.

Associate Professor Andrea Driscoll
Associate Professor Andrea Driscoll

A team of Deakin University researchers from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, and the Population Health Strategic Research Centre, have received two significant grants from the Department of Health. The grants aim to reduce hospital readmission rates of heart failure patients.

These projects aim to improve outcomes for heart failure patients through improving service delivery, evidence-based practice, and health literacy.

“We hope to make a difference to heart failure survival and hospital readmission rates with this research,” said one of the project leaders, Associate Professor Andrea Driscoll. “If these projects are successful, we hope that our findings can be introduced across the state.”

Heart failure has very high mortality and hospitalisation rates, at an estimated cost of more than $1 billion a year in Australia. Almost 70 per cent of the health care costs relate to acute hospital care, with more than 41,000 people hospitalised with heart failure annually.

The projects are funded through the “Heart Disease and Stroke Initiative” announced by the Victorian Minister of Health in May 2013, as part of the May 2013-14 State Budget. The initiative will fund thirteen projects, with a total of $21.9 million over four years, to improve Victoria’s response to heart disease and stroke. The Victorian Cardiac Clinical Network will work closely with all project teams to support the initiatives.

The first Deakin project, awarded to Associate Professor Andrea Driscoll, entitled “Improving outcomes for heart failure patients” will focus its activities at Austin Health. It will improve service delivery through the implementation of a heart failure nurse practitioner service and a nurse-led outpatient clinic for heart failure patients. It will also aim to improve processes of care and access to specialist services.

Research shows that improved processes of care and evidence-based practice are associated with improved outcomes. This project will provide evidence to inform clinical decision making for patients with heart failure and the allocation of scarce resources, to optimise effective heart failure services in the future.

The second project, awarded to Associate Professor Andrea Driscoll, Professor Richard Osborne and Dr Alison Beauchamp, entitled “Improving medication adherence in heart failure using a health literacy framework,” which is a world first, aims to improve the health literacy of heart failure patients.

This study will be based at both Austin and Monash Health. Associate Professor Driscoll, Dr Beauchamp and Professor Osborne will use a new tool, the Health Literacy Questionnaire, which comprehensively assesses both the needs of patients and the responsiveness of the health services. With this data, the team will develop and test a health literacy program that aims to greatly improve patients’ chances of using their medicines in the best possible way.

Low health literacy has been shown to result in a lack of understanding in patients about how best to use their medicines to manage their heart failure. In contrast, the “health literacy enhanced” program will help doctors and nurses to understand their patients’ needs, and improve the knowledge of patients and their ability to self-manage their heart failure, thus, hopefully, reducing hospital readmissions. Importantly, this project will focus on those people who tend to struggle with accessing and understanding health services.

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