Transforming post-hospital care for people with heart disease

6 March 2020
National collaborative approach attracts $5m Synergy Grant

Despite advances in preventing death from Australia's biggest killer, our approach to after-hospital care has largely not changed for 50 years; a multidisciplinary grant awarded to Sydney is set to change this.

Sydney researchers and clinicians have been awarded an inaugural $5 million National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Synergy Grant for a project that will reform cardiac rehabilitation and care for people with heart disease.

The grant was awarded to the project: Solving the long-standing evidence-practice gap associated with cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease (SOLVE-CHD). The goal of the project is to modernise after-hospital care, provide the best quality support to more patients and reduce the number of people who die or have to be readmitted to hospital.

Chief Investigator, Professor Julie Redfern from the University of Sydney School of Medicine, said the grant was a breakthrough in an area where reform is long overdue regarding the world’s number-one killer.

“For many patients who survive a heart attack the care after they leave hospital is not ideal,” said Professor Redfern, deputy-director of the University of Sydney’s Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC).

“Many patients are not referred to cardiac rehabilitation, many stop taking their medicines and it is tough to continue to manage their risk factors including exercise and diet changes.

“Still in Australia today after hospitalisation for a heart attack, almost half (40 percent) are readmitted and about one in five patients die within three years,” she said.

“Over the next five years, our team will deliver a program of research and health care reform that will finally change the delivery of post-hospital management and secondary prevention of heart disease. This is long overdue as most programs have been unchanged for 50 years.”

Professor Robyn Ward, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health, congratulated Professor Redfern for leading collaborative research to shape the future of cardiovascular care.

“It’s great to see the University of Sydney and collaborators, across Australia and internationally, addressing this important problem: how do we broaden our focus from emergency to scalable adaptive responses to improve lives and ease the healthcare burden?”

The program of work for this Synergy Grant – one of just a handful awarded nationwide – covers the development and use of new technologies, better collection and use of data and improving access to prevention for all Australians with heart disease. 

The program will include:

  • Plugging the gap in post-discharge data: Develop comprehensive, continuous and national data, with the aim to implement an Australian-first nationwide, electronic data collection and reporting platform for cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention programs  
  • testing gamification and virtual reality as potential strategies to better support people with heart disease to maintain lower-risk lifestyle changes
  • modernising access to programs so that more patients can participate with better links to their doctors and health providers.

The SOLVE-CHD project is a multidisciplinary team effort and includes researchers and clinicians with allied health, nursing, cardiology, public health, health economics and psychology backgrounds. The Chief Investigator team has had extensive collaborations in the area of cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention over many years.

The team includes:

  • Professor Julie Redfern, Faculty of Medicine and Health and WARC, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Tom Briffa, School of Population and Global Health, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Robyn Gallagher, Charles Perkins Centre and Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sydney
  • Professor Garry Jennings, Sydney Health Partners and University of Sydney
  • Emeritus Professor Adrian Bauman, Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health, University of Sydney
  • Professor David Wood, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London
  • Professor Julie Ratcliffe, College of Nursing and Health Sciences Flinders University
  • Professor David Brieger, Concord Clinical School, ANZAC Research Institute, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Adrienne O’Neil, Faculty of Health, School of Medicine, Deakin University

The team is also supported by a large group of associate investigators including Professor Gemma Figtree from Sydney’s Northern Clinical School, Professor Clara Chow from WARC, Dr Karice Hyun from WARC and Associate Professor Simon Poon from the Faculty of Engineering.

For many patients who survive a heart attack, the care after they leave hospital is not ideal... one in five die within three years.
Professor Julie Redfern

Facts & figures

Cardiovascular disease

  • Burden in healthcare Incurs the highest level of healthcare-sector expenditure in Australia (11-12 percent of the total)
  • Morbidity Accounts for the greatest single disease morbidity and nearly one fifth of all deaths
  • Economic cost $1.14 billion annually in Australia

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