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There will be new clinical trials to address Australia’s deadliest disease, following an agreement between local digital health company Cardihab and medical research organisation the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

The five-year agreement between Cardihab and the Baker Institute will involve several clinical trials and cohort studies that provide evidence of the effectiveness of digital approaches to cardiovascular disease management, rehabilitation, prevention and treatment.

Cardihab

This is a landmark Australian digital health platform that facilitates the virtual delivery of cardiac rehabilitation and chronic disease management programs for patients recovering from cardiac events and living with heart disease.

Patients use Cardihab apps to complete their cardiac rehabilitation program virtually, while under clinical supervision by qualified healthcare professionals.

Cardihab Chief Executive Officer Helen Souris said it was the first widespread research program to be conducted in Australia using broader applications of Cardihab’s digital health platform.

‘The outcomes of these clinical trials and studies will impact on the lives of more than 4.2 million people with heart or vascular disease around the country,’ said Ms Souris.

‘It will further demonstrate how digital health is delivering options for rehabilitation and secondary prevention that improve patient choice leading to greater uptake and better outcomes.’

Helen Souris said digital solutions empowered patients to proactively manage their health, while reducing the pressure on hospitals and staff – essential given the burden of disease and vulnerability of patients, particularly during COVID-19 constraints.

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Regional and remote benefits

‘Clinically validated digital health programs are vital for people who cannot attend traditional face-to-face clinics, people living in regional and remote areas and patients who are less mobile,’ said Ms Souris.

The clinical trials will also facilitate world-leading research into the application of digital cardiac rehabilitation in new areas such as cardio-oncology.

Ms Souris said there was a significant need for risk-guided rehabilitation programs for people who survive cancer but develop cardiovascular disease associated with cancer treatment.

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Changing numbers

As cancer therapies and survival have improved, millions of patients treated with cardiotoxic therapy are now cancer survivors. In Australia, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of non-cancer death in cancer survivors , and eight percent of deaths are from heart failure (HF), which occurs in eighteen percent of cancer survivors.

‘There are a number of cardioprotective strategies that can be implemented to support patients during and after their cancer treatment,’ said Ms Souris.

‘Risk-guided digital cardiac rehabilitation as part of a program of care could be an effective solution that helps manage heart problems in cancer patients and assist in improving their quality of life,’ she said.

‘Digital solutions such as Cardihab will enable clinicians to deliver individualised and tailored support for cancer patients at risk with the ability to monitor their care without the need for regular face-to-face consultations.’

Secondary prevention

Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute Professor Tom Marwick said the Institute was committed to secondary prevention and ensuring people who had a cardiovascular event like a heart attack did not suffer another one.

He said solutions which support patients to self-manage chronic long-term conditions such as cardiovascular disease, particularly during challenging COVID-19 lockdowns, are important.

‘The evidence shows that cardiac rehabilitation optimises patient outcomes and reduces cardiovascular risks, and we need to make it as easy and accessible as possible to ensure participation,’ said Professor Marwick.

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Key numbers

  • A report by Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute found that despite clear evidence of benefit, only 50 per cent of patients who suffered a heart event receive guideline-based care and referral to cardiac rehab.
  • Of the 4.2 million Australians with a cardiovascular condition, 1.2 million have heart disease and are 5 to 7 times more likely to suffer future heart events than those without heart disease.
  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, cardiovascular disease remains Australia’s biggest killer, accounting for 44,000 deaths in 2017 and 1.1 million hospitalisations a year.
  • More than 5.6 percent of Australian adults had 1 of more conditions related to heart or vascular disease in 2017-18.
  • The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare forecasts cardiovascular disease to remain the most expensive disease group, rising to more than $22 billion in 2032-33.
  • Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest costs to the Australian health system comprising $10.4 billion or 8.9 percent of total disease expenditure in 2015-16.
  • A position paper from the Secondary Prevention and Rehabilitation Section of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology recently recognised cardiac rehabilitation as one of the most cost-effective interventions to ensure favourable patient outcomes across many cardiovascular diseases, reducing cardiovascular mortality, morbidity and disability, and increasing quality of life.
  • A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that cardiac rehabilitation achieved a 26 percent reduction in mortality and an 18 percent reduction in re-admissions, as well as quality of life benefits.