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Elderly heart patients staying healthy at home

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Elderly heart patients staying healthy at home

Elderly patients with heart problems are being helped to avoid multiple readmissions to hospital thanks to a new service.

Cardiology and aged-care specialists at Western Health created the service to provide a better, co-ordinated approach to treating elderly heart patients in hospital and later, when they are discharged to their homes.

Nationally, about 25-35 per cent of elderly heart patients have multiple readmissions to hospital due to their complex needs.

However, since Western Heath developed its service in 2014, hospital readmission rates among its elderly heart patients have dropped markedly, according to data to be presented soon at a medical conference.

Patients and their carers get advice on how to avoid preventable incidents at home that often lead to a patient being readmitted to hospital.

Specialist nurses teach the patients and their carers how to avoid falls, manage their medications and fluid restrictions and to recognise early warning signs that their health may be worsening.

Patients at home are able to phone a specialist nurse to discuss their concerns and the service provides a rapid-access clinic for patients.

“The feedback we’ve had from patients and carers has been very positive,” said Liz Scholes, clinical nurse consultant of the Cardiogeriatric Heart Failure Service.
“They tell us how nice it is to be able to have a consistent person to speak to on the phone or in outpatients. Patients are becoming more skilled at dealing with their chronic health conditions because we’re giving them knowledge about their disease and strategies to manage it.”

Elderly patients with heart problems often suffer from other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and kidney disease. Consequently they are often admitted to general medical wards, which sometimes makes it difficult for them to receive specialist cardiac care in a timely manner.

Under Western Health’s new collaborative service elderly heart patients are managed by the specialist cardiogeriatric team and reviewed daily by a cardiologist and a geriatrician. The service is overseen by Dr Claire Long, a geriatrician, and Dr Nicholas Cox, director of cardiology at Western Health. Dr Long helped develop the service as part of an initiative with the Victorian Cardiac Clinical Network and the National Heart Foundation.​