CHF is the single most common reason a patient goes to a hospital ER for treatment and the single most common diagnosis for hospital admission.  What’s more, the average life expectancy after a CHF diagnosis is a mere 2.1 years.

Expert insight

Recently, two of Canada’s leading cardiologists, Ontario Association of Cardiologists (OAC) Board Members Dr. Heather Ross and Dr. Mike Hartleib were interviewed to discuss the size of the problem, the enormous healthcare costs associated with it and new ways of approaching CHF to save lives and save money.

“Heart failure is an epidemic.  But, it isn’t just a problem for the healthcare system. This is an incredible burden on the patient, their family and their caregivers.  We want to, and have to, be able to change that,” said Dr. Ross. 

“Both Heather and I work in community care and large hospital environments and we know first-hand that the hospital environment is not always the best place to treat CHF. It’s hugely expensive and often adds stress that is more difficult for patients and their families to manage,” says Dr. Hartleib.

“For sure there are times when the hospital environment is absolutely needed but the goal should be to keep people away from the ER by providing early diagnosis, rapid access to care and support for patient self-management in a far more cost-effective setting than a hospital. And after someone has been treated in hospital, we want to keep them out, to make recovery easier for them and less costly for the system.”

Dr. Hartleib continues, “did you know the cost of treating uncomplicated CHF in hospital starts at $12,000 and if it is complicated it can easily rise to at least $42,000?”

New strategy for CHF

In Dr. Ross’ opinion, a new approach is needed. “Given the stark patient outcomes and health system costs associated with CHF, governments across the country must consider funding new approaches to CHF care aimed at keeping patients out of hospital and receiving care closer to home.” 

“Did you know the cost of treating uncomplicated CHF in hospital starts at $12,000 and if it is complicated it can easily rise to at least $42,000?”

This is at the core of a recent OAC proposal to the Ontario government called the CHF Regional Hubs Initiative.  It addresses the gap that currently exists between hospital and community-based care. It ensures timely cardiac specialist expertise is available in the community to high-risk CHF patients recently discharged from the hospital.

“When you put together a program like this, you look to the literature which shows that early access to care, to the health team, rapid response for patients, early access post-discharge… all have been shown to improve outcomes for patients,” Dr. Ross observed.  “It is the right care, for the right patient, at the right time, by the right person and that’s what we are trying to do with the Regional Hubs project,” she adds. 

 The OAC represents the majority of cardiologists in Ontario and is one of the most knowledgeable groups on issues of cardiac care in the province. It continues to meet with the provincial government to offer its expertise in cardiac care in order save dollars and lives. This fall it will launch a public campaign to increase awareness of CHF and new methods of treatment.