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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

New pharma-academia-digital health partnership spurs change in delivery of cardiovascular care

Health Industry Hub | March 7, 2023 |

Pharma News: A new Australian partnership announced today will enable a pilot to test a new model of care to improve cardiovascular health. The unique partnership will bring together leaders in digital healthcare solutions, clinical care and research in heart health and the pharma industry.

The three-way partnership between Novartis, Monash University and Telstra Health will lead the ASCERTAIN implementation science study which will review approximately 600 patients, across 20 sites in both urban and rural locations nationally.

The new model of care pilot designed by Monash University’s Victorian Heart Institute will help improve patient management via participating clinics in a primary care setting, with the support of digital tools such as educational text messages, questionnaires and nurse practitioners. The study will be overseen by experts from the Victorian Heart Hospital, and enabled by innovative technology, powered by Telstra Health.

“Telstra Health’s digital health platform capabilities, including advanced data analytics and real time clinical decision support, are enabling our healthcare providers to quickly and effectively identify and treat Australians most at risk of cardiovascular disease, regardless of where they live. GPs will have a range of new digital solutions available to identify people eligible to participate in the trial, in turn improving access to the most modern and advanced treatments available,” said Telstra Health’s General Manager for Solutions and Growth, Rupert Lee.

In Australia, one person dies every 12 minutes from cardiovascular disease (CVD) – making it the leading cause of death of Aussies. It is a disease that does not discriminate and can happen at any age, however high rates of obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure put many Australians as young as 35 at risk. High cholesterol alone is responsible for more than a third of all the years of healthy life lost to heart disease in Australia.

Australia’s leading clinicians, including world-renowned Australian cardiologist, Professor Stephen Nicholls, Director of the Victorian Heart Hospital and Monash Victorian Heart Institute, believes we can help manage high cholesterol levels if we tackle some of the basic challenges we face. This includes heightening awareness, achieving regular testing, reviewing and updating clinical guidelines to ensure they reflect the latest evidence-based models of management, and increasing access to more effective treatments.

“Half of our high-risk patients in Australia do not have their cholesterol treated appropriately. So, whatever we’re doing today isn’t working for a lot of people, that’s not a criticism, that’s a reality. It’s got to be better because we fail 50 per cent of our patients, and that fail rate is only going to go higher every time we push the targets for ‘bad’ cholesterol levels lower,” said Professor Nicholls.

The challenges Australia faces in CVD can be seen more acutely in regional and remote communities where, compared to major capital cities, CVD deaths are more than 50% higher in very remote locations, and more than 33% higher in remote areas. Australians living in the most disadvantaged areas are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalised for a heart attack than those in the most advantaged areas.

Country President Novartis Australia and New Zealand, Richard Tew said “Too many Australians continue to lose their lives unnecessarily from CVD as a result of risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. We have the tools at our disposal, now is the time to come together through unique partnerships like this, to think outside the box, and drive improvements in health outcomes. This study is an example of how we can do this.”

Every 1 mmol/L reduction in LDL-C (‘bad’ cholesterol) reduces the risk of a CVD event like heart attack or stroke, by 20%. Yet, Australia hasn’t moved the needle on cholesterol in 10 years, with 6.1% or 1.5 million Australians living with the disease in 2017-2018. Ten years earlier Australia’s level of cholesterol sat at 5.7%.

If successful, this new ‘hyper-care’ model of care for cardiovascular disease patients can be scaled nationally, helping to address the gap in treatment being experienced by Aussies with CVD, in particular for those in rural and remote settings, and helping to improve the outlook for heart disease patients across the country.

Tackling cholesterol – one of the leading risks for CVD – with models of care like that being trialled in the ASCERTAIN study, have the potential to save more than 3,738 lives, prevent over 13,740 life-threatening CVD events like heart attack and stroke and save $66.6 million in health costs over a five-year period.

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