Most eligible patients ‘have not had recent heart checks’

Jolyon Attwooll

3/05/2022 4:48:06 PM

The reported results of a Heart Foundation survey suggest many at-risk patients have not been screened within the past two years.

GP inputting data
Almost two in three people over 45 could be eligible for a screening test, according to the Heart Foundation.

The majority of Australians eligible for cardiovascular risk screening are not taking up the procedure in a timely way, a Heart Foundation survey suggests.
According to the charity, a survey carried out among 1000 people indicated that 64% of those aged between 45 and 74 had not taken up a Heart Health Check within the past two years.
If that figure correlated with the overall population, it would mean around 5.5 million people are eligible for a check. More than half are likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or have been told they are at high risk of heart disease by a doctor, according to the Heart Foundation. 
The majority of respondents also reported that a GP recommendation would be the biggest motivating influence to take a Heart Health Check.
‘Cardiovascular disease prevention has never been so critical,’ Heart Foundation interim CEO, Professor Garry Jennings said.
‘Disruption caused by the pandemic, combined with healthcare provider burnout and emerging data on the impact of COVID-19 infection on adverse cardiovascular outcomes has created a perfect storm of risk.
‘It is clear through these findings that GPs and nurses have the power to make a difference – your recommendation or invitation for a preventive check-up is the most powerful tool we have to encourage this essential screening activity.’
Medicare items to help facilitate the Heart Health Check were introduced in 2019. According to the Heart Foundation, more than 275,000 of those checks have now taken place.
An MBS fact sheet for the Medicare items say they were brought into place to help early diagnosis for disease.
Heart disease and stroke account for almost 30% of deaths, the document states.
‘Patients will benefit from the introduction of this item through potentially earlier identification of cardiovascular disease and more timely and appropriate medical intervention to support improved outcomes.’
Everyone aged over 45 years – and over 30 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – who is not already known to have cardiovascular disease is eligible for an annual check.
The Medicare items can be claimed once per patient for every 12-month period.
The Heart Foundation cites modelling that suggests up to 76,500 cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, strokes and deaths could be avoided over five years if the checks are carried out widely.
The organisation is also encouraging health professionals to use its Heart Health Check Toolkit to assess and manage cardiovascular risk among eligible patients.
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newsGP weekly poll Which of the below incentive amounts (paid annually) would be sufficient to encourage you to provide eight consultations and two care plans to a residential aged care patient per year?

newsGP weekly poll Which of the below incentive amounts (paid annually) would be sufficient to encourage you to provide eight consultations and two care plans to a residential aged care patient per year?



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Dr Anon   4/05/2022 6:36:30 AM

All well and good to tell GPs to go do 699s, but when a GP does offer it to every eligible patient, they get interrogated by the PRP because they’re billing more 699s than everyone else.

No thanks, not falling for that one again. I’ll keep doing heart checks of course, but using time based private billing like I was before the item was created.

I think the real number of people missing out on heart health assessments is much lower than the reported findings suggest since many colleagues seem to view 699 as pointless, given it is only a Level C equivalent fee for part of what they were already doing.

The MBS is not meant to be a billing structure or a tool to measure uptake of preventive health activities. It is a public insurance system that gives patients a rebate of a portion of the cost of their healthcare.

Dr Michael Lucas Bailey   4/05/2022 8:18:26 AM

The MBS item for a heart health check is nothing more than a politicised stunt. In practice a heart health check is a good idea and is a basic part of general practice. A very prescriptive MBS item with restricted claiming requirements that is of the same value as an other consult of the same length is simply not worth trying to bill from an administrative and Medicare compliance perspective.