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hearts4heart tell the Federal Government: It’s ‘Time to Change the Beat’

5 September 2017

Read about the heart promotion charity heart4heart’s efforts to highlight the danger of Atrial Fibrillation. And their call to reform the Prostheses List to include non-surgically implanted medical technology.

Researchers at the New York-based Commonwealth Fund recently performed a study of 11 different national healthcare models and ranked Australia’s healthcare outcomes the best in the world, and Australia’s overall healthcare system second behind the United Kingdom’s National Health Service.[i]

Remarkable recognition. But, we shouldn’t be complacent. Some mechanisms within our healthcare service are inflexible and based on 20th century needs. They are in effect – but are they effective?

The Prostheses List is the list of surgically implanted prostheses, human tissue items and other medical devices that private health insurers must pay benefits for when they are provided to a patient with appropriate health insurance cover; they are provided as part of hospital treatment or hospital substitute treatment, and there is a Medicare benefit payable for the service.

This Prostheses List is a respected mechanism and provides peace of mind to Australians with private health insurance. However, it has been raised that it is behind modern times, out of pace with the speed of research, development and innovation in medicine and medical technology.

Medical innovation – particularly over the past 10 years – has led to the development of technology that can be used or applied within the human body and is then removed leaving little trace, other than potentially alleviated pain, restored health and/or extended life. This technology is embraced by healthcare professionals and patients who can use it, but it is foreign in the context of a Prostheses List which only factors surgically implanted products.

Take catheter ablation for Atrial Fibrillation [AF] as an example. Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure in which the doctor threads a flexible thin tube [catheter] through the blood vessels to the heart to terminate (ablate) abnormal electrical pathways in the heart tissue. Following ablation, the catheter is removed. Catheter ablation therapy has been shown to be more effective than antiarrhythmic medication for improving the symptoms of AF. However, at present, the procedure is covered inconsistently across health funds because the associated devices are not implantable and are therefore not currently included on the Prostheses List.

If this confuses you – you aren’t alone.

Recognising this gap, hearts4heart, a health promotion charity are advocating for change to help improve outcomes for more than 400,000 Australians living with AF. On Tuesday 5 September hearts4heart released a white paper titled ‘Time to Change the Beat’ for the attention of the Federal Government.Heart4heart-white-paper-WEB-RES_Page_01

According to CEO and Founder, Tanya Hall, Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a major public health issue that requires immediate attention and action. Our ‘Time to Change the Beat’ white paper proposes tangible, achievable and meaningful strategies that should be introduced over the next five years to help reduce the burden of AF in Australia. This includes improved availability and accessibility of catheter ablation for patients with symptomatic AF.”

The white paper identifies four key strategies:

  1. Improved AF screening and detection in general practice and pharmacy.
  2. Increased consumer understanding of AF symptoms and self-detection, as well as the relationship between AF and stroke.
  3. Improve the management of AF in primary care.
  4. Improve availability and accessibility of catheter ablation for patients with symptomatic AF.

These strategies form their five year plan. More information is available here.

How you can help: The best first step is to be informed. Learn more about the four strategies above in the white paper to determine your opinions. You can share them on the hearts4heart facebook page, or on twitter using the hashtag #changethebeat.

About hearts4heart

hearts4heart is a health promotion charity who provide targeted educational programs, resources and services to assist patients, medical professionals, policy makers and the public to ensure early diagnoses and treatment of heart disease including arrhythmias. By raising awareness and providing these programs, they work towards early detection of heart disease, prevention and offer support and management strategies to those living with heart disease.

Disclaimer: Medtronic, alongside other industry partners, provided hearts4heart with an educational grant to support the development of this white paper. The content is independent of Medtronic.

[i] Eric C. Schneider, Dana O. Sarnak, David Squires, Arnav Shah, and Michelle M. Doty, Mirror, Mirror 2017 http://www.commonwealthfund.org/interactives/2017/july/mirror-mirror/

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