Strengthening hearts: a collaborative approach to chronic heart failure care

  • Model heart on Dr's desk
  • Older woman clutching chest with man supporting.
Nicole Wheals
Nicole Wheals
Project Integration Manager
Benchmarque Group

In recent years, chronic heart failure (CHF) has emerged as a significant concern in Australia, particularly in rural areas with limited access to healthcare. Screening and early intervention programs for chronic diseases have faced setbacks, leading to a surge in undiagnosed cases within communities. Chronic heart failure affects 2% of Australian adults, significantly contributing to repeated hospitalisations, many of which could be prevented. Recognising a growing need, the Western Australia Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) created a vital education initiative in partnership with Benchmarque Group.

The Chronic Heart Failure Project was launched to align with the Australian Government's efforts to manage chronic conditions, and it has since become a source of hope for both patients and healthcare providers. We have employed a holistic approach in our project, addressing both the disease and the systems surrounding it. The project's objective was clear: to enhance patient outcomes, reduce healthcare costs, and strengthen primary care capacity through innovative models of care.

Addressing the challenge

In line with the Australian Government’s commitment to managing chronic heart failure, WAPHA, as the operator of Western Australia’s three Primary Health Networks (PHNs), was ideally positioned to administer a project aimed at empowering healthcare professionals with specialised knowledge. The objective was to equip these professionals, including General Practitioners, Practice Nurses, and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, with practical strategies to prevent disease progression and enhance patients' quality of life.

Our Chronic Heart Failure Project was created to pilot a general practice-led, patient-centred multidisciplinary model of care in Western Australia. This model emphasises essential aspects such as building capacity within general practice, implementing quality improvement cycles to refine general practice processes, empowering and educating CHF patients and their caregivers, enhancing the role of practice nurses in CHF management, collaborating effectively with pharmacists, and strengthening the connections and collaboration between primary and tertiary care institutions.

The initiative aligns with the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions and the evidence-based principles of the National Heart Foundation of Australia.

Educational initiative

Working in partnership, WAPHA and Benchmarque Group developed the Chronic Heart Failure: A Primary Care Approach course. Our course dives deep into the complexities of chronic heart failure, covering pathophysiology, clinical guidelines, symptom recognition, and holistic care strategies. We place a strong emphasis on collaboration between multi-disciplinary healthcare stakeholders, including Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners, Pharmacists and Practice Nurses, to equip primary care providers with the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent disease progression, minimise complications, and enhance patients' overall quality of life. We understand that healthcare professionals have diverse needs, which is why we offer tailored pathways to meet their specific requirements. General Practitioners have the opportunity to complete an online learning experience, ensuring accessibility and efficiency, while Registered Nurses can engage in virtual workshops, enhancing their practical skills and knowledge in managing chronic heart failure.

Collaboration and impact

Collaboration was a crucial factor in the success of this project. We brought in subject-matter experts from various regions and professional healthcare roles who contributed their expertise, ensuring the course's accuracy and relevance. We believe that by enhancing the role of general practice professionals and strengthening connections between primary and tertiary care, we can create a more seamless healthcare ecosystem. The Chronic Heart Failure Project can be a model for collaborative healthcare initiatives, emphasising the significance of education, multidisciplinary collaboration, and the integration of digital platforms in improving patient care.

Setting a precedent

The partnership between WAPHA and Benchmarque Group has set a precedent for future innovations by addressing immediate healthcare challenges, paving the way for a more integrated and patient-focused healthcare system. Our Chronic Heart Failure Project continues to equip healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent disease progression and enhance patients' quality of life. We are proud to reinforce general practice as a hub for comprehensive multidisciplinary care, strengthen connections between primary and tertiary care institutions, and foster collaboration between multi-disciplinary healthcare stakeholders. With this project, we are optimistic about the future of healthcare in Australia.

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