Innovative HCF funded project enhances heart failure treatment for regional Australians


The HCF Research Foundation, Australia’s leading non-government funder of health services research is funding an innovative project led by Professor Andrea Driscoll from Deakin University and Austin Health, through its Translational Research Grants (TRG) scheme.

The ‘I-HEART: Implementation of Heart Failure Guidelines in Regional Australia’ project aims to enhance heart failure care for patients in regional and rural patients using advanced telehealth services and nurse-led clinics.

Heart failure is a significant health challenge in Australia, particularly for those living in regional and rural areas,1 with mortality rates 16 percent higher in rural areas compared to urban centres.2

The I-HEART initiative is bridging this gap by improving access to heart specialists and ensuring patient receive the right therapies, ultimately reducing re-hospitalisations and improving quality of life for regional Australians diagnosed with heart failure.

“So often, heart failure patients aren’t on the right medications,” said Professor Driscoll. “We know from research findings that only 6.9 percent of patients hospitalised with heart failure received all recommended heart failure therapies.3 Getting patients on the right therapies will improve outcomes,” Professor Driscoll said.

Since it launched in 2022, the I-HEART project has implemented over 30 decision support tools and established two nurse-led heart failure clinics. The initiative focuses on creating seamless, integrated care and building workforce capacity by collaborating with six regional hospitals.

“These efforts have significantly bolstered self-management among heart failure patients,” Professor Driscoll said.

The initiative’s success is underscored by its educational outreach. More than 25 workshops have been held, training over 270 health professionals in heart failure management.

“Through our workshops, we’ve increased the workforce capacity significantly,” said Professor Driscoll.

Telehealth has been a game-changer, especially for those living in regional and rural areas where heart failure patients previously lacked specialist care. Patients are seen within a week of hospital discharge and then weekly for five weeks to prevent readmission,” Professor Driscoll said.

This structured follow-up, along with its co-design approach, has been key to the program’s success. By involving hospital executives, clinicians, local health professionals, and patients, the program is designed to meet specific community needs.

“It really needs to be tailored to the local environment,” Professor Driscoll said. “What’s done in regional hospitals is really different from metro areas.”

Despite challenges such as staffing costs, connectivity issues, and natural disasters like floods, the benefits far outweigh the obstacles.

“If you implement the telehealth clinic and fund a coordinator, the cost savings from reduced hospitalisations can cover the clinic’s expenses,” Professor Driscoll said.

The program has also introduced essential interventions such as iron infusions, further reducing hospitalisations and generating additional funding.

Dr Chris Pettigrew, Head of the HCF Research Foundation, highlighted the broader impact of such initiatives.

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Dr Pettigrew said.

“Developing care models that get people out of hospital earlier, and keep them out by reducing readmissions, frees up beds for other patients and benefits the entire health system. It’s about increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and getting the right care to patients who need it most.”

The success of the I-HEART program demonstrates the transformative potential of targeted, well-supported research initiatives.

“By leveraging telehealth and local expertise, this project is making a tangible difference in the lives of heart failure patients in regional Australia, offering a model that could benefit communities nationwide,” Dr Pettigrew said.

/Public Release.