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The largest Ireland-only community health outcome study has been launched in the West of Ireland, designed with the aim of assessing whether timely access to diagnostics, access to specialist opinion and patient education can improve outcomes in heart failure patients.

Entitled, ‘Ireland BEATS Heart Failure’, it will run for two years, enrolling a total of 750 patients in the West and East of Ireland.

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development, Seán Kyne welcomed the study, expressing his delight that general practitioners based in the West of Ireland would have the opportunity to be involved in such a large project.

The study is also intended to outline the characteristics of heart failure patients in Ireland, the treatments they receive, and to assess the frequency of their hospitalisations and emergency service visits.

The purpose of studies that focus on health outcomes is to enable the State to direct its health spending towards activities and treatments that are proven to yield “positive patient outcomes” e.g. hospitalisations avoided.

Reimbursement for “positive patient outcomes” is difficult to measure and implement, and health services worldwide are attempting to assess if similar projects could be replicated across chronic disease areas.

Commenting on the project, Dr. Yvonne Smyth, Consultant Cardiologist Galway University Hospital and Clinical Lead National Acute Medicine Programme, highlighted its importance. She noted that chronic diseases, such as heart failure, account for up 70 per cent of all illnesses in Ireland, a figure that is projected to increase as the Irish population ages.

Professor Ken McDonald, Consultant Cardiologist and Medical Director of The Heartbeat Trust, added; “Chronic illness threatens to overrun our healthcare systems.

“This groundbreaking study can be used as a test case to establish effective ways to better manage heart failure, one of the most complex of chronic diseases. It is a great achievement that the study has started in the West of Ireland, and we look forward to the start of the pilot study in the East of Ireland soon”.

The study, which was announced by Croí, the Heartbeat Trust and Novartis, was officially launched in Galway by Minister Kyne.