Cairns Hospital gets pumping on heart study

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Dr Katrina Starmer, Cairns Hospital emergency physician and member of the research team.

Dr Katrina Starmer, Cairns Hospital emergency physician and member of the research team.

Cairns Hospital clinicians are working on new ways to improve patient flow in the Emergency Department, thanks to a new cardiac study underway in the busy unit.

Cairns Hospital clinicians have been awarded a six-figure grant to help find a better way to assess patients presenting to emergency departments with possible heart attacks.

The Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service has received a prestigious National Health and Medical Research Council grant alongside four national leaders in heart research to evaluate a new approach to assessing patients’ chest pain.

The $775,240 grant will allow CHHHS to join with the National Heart Foundation of Australia, the Emergency Medicine Foundation, Metro North Hospital and Health Service, and Queensland University of Technology for the study, which ultimately aims to help reduce hospital overcrowding.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Jaimi Greenslade from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, said each year, more than 450,000 patients attended Australian hospitals with chest pain.

“Chest pain is the second most common emergency department presentation,” she said.

“While chest pain is a classic symptom of heart attack, less than 15 per cent of patients are found to be at significant risk of the life-threatening condition.

“The current processes used to rule out heart attack for these patients are lengthy and costly, taking on average more than a day per patient, and costing more than $2100 per patient.”

The study has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council ($532,000), the National Heart Foundation of Australia ($150,000), and the Emergency Medicine Foundation ($93,240).

The research team - including clinicians from CHHHS - will evaluate a new pathway for assessing chest pain that aims to reduce the time and costs associated with managing patients at low risk of a heart attack in EDs.

Cairns Hospital emergency physician, and member of the research team, Dr Katrina Starmer, said cardiac patients frequently kept the hospital busy.

“We have more than 70,000 presentations to our Emergency Department each year, and more than 10 per cent of these are cardiac-related,” she said.

“Tourists have been a major contributor to our cardiac presentations in other years, but this year despite a lack of tourism, we’ve still been very busy with cardiac patients, performing more procedures than last year.”

She said research like this, which involved collaborations between departments and institutions, was invaluable to patients in the Far North.

“This research is both innovative and applicable to the real-world setting, and it enables rural and regional patients to be considered when establishing best practice guidelines,” she said.

“It also has potentially significant day-to-day benefits in reducing patient stay and relieving the burden on our emergency department whilst still allowing safe and high-quality care for Far North Queenslanders.”

Associate Professor Greenslade said it is a privilege to work with the Cairns Hospital, which has a strong history of successful quality improvement and research.

“In recent years, Cairns Emergency Department has been at the forefront of excellence in chest pain assessment,” she said.

“They have been early adopters of innovative models of chest pain assessment and leaders in research into chest pain assessment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“The success of the Cairns team has been a result of their inclusivity and they have adopted change as a multidisciplinary team, including nurses, physicians and Advanced Aboriginal Health Workers.