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New online toolkit to help streamline Heart Health Checks


Anastasia Tsirtsakis


5/03/2021 3:25:15 PM

Developed with input from GPs, the new tool aims to assist practices in better engaging and recalling eligible patients to boost screening rates.

GP checking a patient's blood pressure.
People aged 45 years and over, or 30 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, are eligible for an annual Heart Health Check.

More than two thirds of Australians have at least three risk factors for heart disease.
 
Despite this, one in three people eligible for a Heart Health Check, aged 45–74, have not had their blood pressure or cholesterol recorded within the recommended timeframes.
 
Heart Foundation Risk Reduction Manager, Natalie Raffoul told newsGP the figures are ‘concerning’, particularly as general practices face a backlog of patients who have delayed visiting their GP as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
 
‘To some extent, chronic disease management has bounced back through telehealth, but Heart Health Checks and other health assessments that require physical examination have not,’ she said.
 
‘So, we know that risk assessment can be improved, we know it can get better.
 
‘We also really understand that general practice is pivotal to encouraging better preventive care across the board – they are critical. There’s no other area of health that can help us with that.’
 
Beyond the pandemic, the Heart Foundation sought feedback from GPs, practice nurses and Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to pinpoint any barriers that may be hindering practices from meeting the guideline targets and found ‘lack of time’ to be a consistent issue.
 
‘[That’s] because of all the things that general practice staff have to juggle,’ Ms Raffoul said.
 
‘One of the key things that most of the general practice staff came forward with, was the need for really simple and practical tools that made their life easier when it came to assessing cardiovascular risk and managing it.’
 
That’s where the new online Heart Health Check Toolkit comes in.
 
It offers pre-populated assessment and management templates for Heart Health Checks to help GPs and practice nurses collect cardiovascular risk factor information, and to support patients.
 
‘It makes life easier,’ Ms Raffoul said.
 
‘The templates are something that the Heart Foundation has been asked for, for a while now, so we’re so glad that we can finally deliver it.
 
‘They are step-by-step, everything that needs to be recorded during the assessment phase of a Heart Health Check, all the way through to a patient-friendly management plan that can be provided during that consultation.’
 
Developed over the course of 18 months, a national primary care expert advisory group was established to inform and shape its development, while a broader general practice validation group tested and reviewed the resource to ensure it is both practical and simple to use.
 
Among them was Melbourne GP and academic, Associate Professor Ralph Audehm.
 
He told newsGP the new resource will help practices to identify and treat more patients at risk of heart disease.
 
‘The Heart Health Check allows practices to focus on screening large groups of people in a systematic way and ensure those at high risk are identified and managed according to their risk,’ Associate Professor Audehm said.
 
‘The program also allows promotion of Heart Health Checks to the wider community and may engage with people who otherwise may not attend general practices.
 
‘It may also help patients start the conversation and think about their heart health.’
 
Ms Raffoul says a key point of the toolkit is that it has been designed with a ‘whole of practice’ approach in mind to streamline the way health checks are conducted, suitable for both GPs and practice nurses.
 
‘It will really reduce the admin burden associated with a Heart Health check, and it will do so in line with best practice clinical guidelines,’ she said.
 
‘It’s also in line with the MBS [Medicare Benefits Schedule] billing, and the other great thing is that it’s in line with the PIP QI Program. So, from a holistic point of view, it covers all those three aspects of delivering good quality preventive care.’
 
While the COVID vaccine rollout is a key focus at the moment, Ms Raffoul says it is important to remember that many people eligible for a heart health check may not present to their GP until much later in the year, when they are eligible to receive a vaccine.
 
‘So, using the toolkit now means we’re still engaging with them,’ she said.
 
‘We’re coming back after the big hit in the backlog last year and ensuring that cardiovascular disease doesn’t get forgotten.’
 
The Heart Health Check Toolkit can be found on the Heart Foundation website
 
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cardiovascular disease CVD risk heart health Heart Health Check


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