Medical and demographic data was gathered from the charts of 1611 eligible patients from 35 randomly selected practices. This is the first time that such research has been completed from a random sample of patients, with already established heart disease, in Ireland.
The research has significant implications for the Department of Health and the HSE as it considers the future of the Heartwatch programme. Heartwatch is a pilot programme involving 20 percent of Irish general practices, to deliver appropriate preventive care to patients with already established heart disease. Appropriate care includes issues such as:
- lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels
- providing aspirin and lipid lowering drugs
- stopping smoking
- increasing exercise
- decreasing fat within the diet.
According to Professor Andrew W. Murphy, NUI Galway, "This study is the first study taken from a random group of Irish cardiac patients. It reveals that the preventive care which they receive is similar to that in other countries such as Australia, the US and the UK. However, these countries are committed to providing chronic disease management systems to improve care and Ireland should do likewise."
A key focus of the research was how patient or practice variables impact on the provision of preventive cardiac care. Interestingly, gender or socio economic status did not appear to have any impact. The practice size or location had relatively little impact on secondary cardiac care. The most consistent significant personal characteristics finding was that patients with a diagnosis of angina only were significantly less likely to receive aspirin, statins or ACE inhibitors and more likely to have more missed opportunities for secondary cardiac care.
The research was conducted by the departments of General Practice and Psychology at NUI, Galway and the department of Public Health and Epidemiology at University College Dublin.
The study, titled "Cross sectional study of secondary cardiac care in general practice: impact of personal practice characteristics", was authored by Molly Byrne, Andrew W Murphy, James C Walsh, Eithne Shryane, Mary McGroarty and Cecily C Kelleher.