60,000 hospital stays for heart failure are preventable: new data

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In 2017-18, more than 62,000 hospital admissions for heart failure in Australia could have been prevented and more than 400,000 bed days avoided, according to new data by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

In 2017-18, there were 62,563 hospital admissions for heart failure that could have been prevented – equating to, on average, 171 admissions every day, or one every 8 minutes.

Heart Foundation Clinical Evidence Manager, Cia Connell, said preventable hospitalisations for heart failure refer to admissions that could have been prevented by timely and adequate care in both the community and at discharge from previous hospital admissions.

“Repeat and unnecessary admissions can make the emotional and financial costs of living with heart failure incredibly high, which is why it’s alarming to see so many people ending up in hospital with them,” Ms Connell said.

“Health professionals, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, provide continual, long-term care for Australians living with heart failure so they can stay alive, stay well and stay out of hospital,” Ms Connell said. “This includes supporting people with heart failure to manage their symptoms and medications and to make long-term lifestyle changes so that they can enjoy a better quality of life.”

The data come as the Heart Foundation releases an animated video series designed to support Australians to live well with heart failure. The videos are created for consumers but intended to be introduced via health professionals as part of a meaningful conversation about how to manage heart failure.

“Receiving a diagnosis like heart failure can be frightening and people tend to think it’s too late to make any changes – this simply isn’t true,” Ms Connell said.

“By following a treatment plan developed by your doctor and health professionals, managing your medication and symptoms, and making lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy diet, being active and not smoking, people can make a big difference to the quality of life they live with heart failure.

“Once you've been diagnosed, it's very important to keep track of your symptoms and discuss any changes with your doctor.”

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart muscle is weakened and cannot pump blood to the rest of the body as effectively as it should.

There are an estimated 110,000 Australians living with heart failure and in 2018, on average, seven people died of heart failure every day. Despite medical advances, health outcomes and survival rates for heart failure are poor, and the cost to the health system has increased on average by 6.5 per cent per year.

The AIHW report, Potentially preventable hospitalisations in Australia by age groups and small geographic areas, 2017-18, provides information on 22 conditions for which hospital admissions could have been prevented by timely and adequate healthcare in the community. The 22 conditions included three broad categories: chronic, acute and vaccine-preventable conditions.

Key findings :

  • There were nearly 748,000 potentially preventable hospitalisations in Australia in 2017–18. This means that around 7 per cent of all hospitalisations could have been prevented.
  • Rates of potentially preventable hospitalisations varied greatly across local areas. • Potentially preventable hospitalisations accounted for more than 2.9 million bed days across Australia – the equivalent to 10 per cent of all public and private hospital bed days. • Most potentially preventable hospitalisations nationally were for chronic conditions (45%), which included congestive heart failure, angina, hypertension, rheumatic heart disease and diabetes.
  • Acute conditions (cellulitis, dental conditions, ear, nose and throat infections, etc) accounted for 44 per cent of preventable hospitalisations and vaccine-preventable conditions (chicken pox, measles, whooping cough, mumps, etc) accounted for 11 per cent.