Flinders University’s Professor Jeroen Hendriks is optimising treatment for the world’s most common heart rhythm disorder.
More than half a million Australians suffering from atrial fibrillation (AF) could benefit from a new model of care currently being researched by trailblazing nursing researcher Professor Jeroen Hendriks.
Atrial fibrillation is the world’s most common heart rhythm disorder, and is associated with increased risk of strokes, and comorbidities such as heart failure, hypertension and sleep apnoea, which may lead to hospitalisation.
‘The disorder is also linked with modifiable lifestyle factors such as obesity, sedentary lifestyle, alcohol use and smoking,’ says Professor Hendriks, who is a professor in Cardiovascular Nursing at Flinders University.
He is determined to optimise treatment for atrial fibrillation patients and reduce demand on overstretched hospitals.
TAILORED MODEL OF CARE
Professor Hendriks has established the first ever specialised Integrated Care AF Clinics at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Cardiovascular Centre in Norwood. The clinics are focused on delivering comprehensive atrial fibrillation care and demonstrating the benefits of the new model of integrated care, through a five-year clinical trial.
The model is based on active patient involvement in their own tailored treatment with support from a multidisciplinary team, including specific roles for nurses and allied health professionals. It includes engagement and education to enable the patient to effectively self-manage atrial fibrillation risks such as modifying lifestyle factors.
‘It’s no longer about asking the patient what’s the matter, but instead what matters to you?’ says Professor Hendriks. ‘So that we really work together and have the patient in the centre of the care, and on board as a member of the multidisciplinary team.’
‘For example, a cardiologist can focus on medical treatment while a nurse can provide education and goal setting with the patient to determine which risk factors can be addressed, then coordinate the care. We also have an exercise specialist on board to assess what kind of exercise would be appropriate for the patient.’
After successfully developing and evaluating an integrated care model in the Netherlands during his PhD studies, Professor Hendriks forged key partnerships in Australia. This led to his appointment as the Leo J Mahar Cardiovascular Nursing Chair, a clinical academic joint appointment between Flinders University and Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN).
He is also supported by a Future Leader Fellowship provided by the Heart Foundation, and is affiliated with the Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders at the University of Adelaide.
‘In the Netherlands I was able to demonstrate significant reductions in cardiovascular hospitalisations and mortality as a result of the nurse-driven integrated care approach – when compared to usual care in a large randomised controlled trial,’ says Professor Hendriks.
AN IMMEDIATE NEED
‘Data from our research team at the Centre for Heart Rhythm Disorders has shown that over the past 21 years the number of AF-related hospital admissions is rising to the point of outnumbering hospitalisation from other conditions, such as myocardial infarction and heart failure,’ says Professor Hendriks.
‘Cases are only set to rise further in the near future with Australia’s ageing population, and we’ll undoubtably experience capacity problems in hospitals if we don’t change the way we’re
addressing atrial fibrillation and its associated risk factors.’
Now underway at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Cardiovascular Clinic at Norwood, Professor Hendriks’ trial is tracking the treatment journey of 1,400 atrial fibrillation patients over a number of years to understand the benefits of the new model of care.
The research for the innovative care model could transform future treatment for atrial fibrillation patients, and improve their quality of life. This in turn could lead to fewer cardiovascular hospitalisations, a reduced mortality rate, and vital savings for the healthcare system.
RESEARCH HALL OF FAME
Recognised for his research endeavours, Professor Hendriks received the prestigious SIGMA International Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame award in Edinburgh, Scotland, in July this year, where he also presented his integrated model of care program of research to an international audience.
He says, ‘If we provide comprehensive treatment according to evidence-based guidelines and aligned with the preferences of the patient, with them on board, this will lead to quality-of-life improvements and satisfaction with the care they receive, which will potentially translate to a reduced burden on the healthcare system.’