Chronic heart failure (CHF) patients in rural and remote areas of Australia are missing out on much-needed health and support services, according to health research consultants.
CHF management programs target recently hospitalised patients to help optimise the continuum of care after they leave the hospital.
But according to Ms Robyn Clark, a National Institute of Clinical Studies scholar supported by the National Heart Foundation at the University of South Australia, CHF management programs are only benefiting patients who live in city areas.
Ms Clark and her colleagues conducted a study, published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia, to compare the locations of CHF management programs with the distribution of patients.
"The highest prevalence of CHF occurred outside of capital cities and in areas with high concentrations of people over 65 years of age and in areas with higher proportions of Indigenous people," says Ms Clark.
"Only four CHF management programs were located outside major cities and there were no CHF management programs in the Northern Territory or Tasmania.
"Our study also suggests that, of the probable 63,000 individuals admitted to hospital with CHF during 2004-05, only eight per cent were enrolled in a CHF management program.
"Our data highlight a clear mismatch between where services are provided and where people with CHF are likely to live in the greatest concentrations.
"There is a need to provide equitable access to CHF management programs to the ageing population regardless of its location."
Ms Clark suggests several alternatives to the existing program, including general practice-based multidisciplinary teams, or the use of information technology such as telemonitoring to bridge the gap between very remote communities and a centre of care.