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The path to better care of atrial fibrillation patients

A novel software tool could enable more effective management of atrial fibrillation patients aged 65 and older with multiple co-existing conditions.

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Researchers supported by the EU-funded EHRA - PATHS project have developed a new software tool to improve the management of elderly atrial fibrillation patients with multiple conditions. The latest updates on this tool were presented at EHRA 2023, a congress hosted by the European Heart Rhythm Association that is a branch of EHRA - PATHS project coordinator European Society of Cardiology (ESC), France.

Towards a uniform approach

Affecting millions of people worldwide, atrial fibrillation is considered the most common heart rhythm disorder. As reported in an ESC press release, atrial fibrillation patients usually deal with an average of five other co-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart failure, obesity and chronic kidney disease. These conditions not only necessitate multiple medications but also compromise patient survival that highlights the need for an integrated care model to optimise patient health. “EHRA-PATHS is developing a standardised approach to ensure that patients with atrial fibrillation receive evidenced-based therapies for the comorbidities that underlie or complicate their heart rhythm disorder,” states Prof. Hein Heidbuchel of project partner Antwerp University Hospital, Belgium. The project team identified 22 comorbidities relevant to atrial fibrillation patients and created clear care pathways “to check for or exclude whether a given comorbidity is present, to guide its further evaluation, and to ensure its effective management.” These pathways are now being integrated into a software tool that will enable systematic and comprehensive evaluation of atrial fibrillation patients by healthcare personnel. “This is the cornerstone of the overall aim of the project, which is to improve outcomes of patients with atrial fibrillation by systematic detection and management of underlying conditions, and by multidisciplinary referral or collaboration where needed,” notes Prof. Heidbuchel. The software will be tested in a clinical study conducted in 65 hospitals across 14 European countries. One part of the study will assess the management of risk factors and comorbidities in about 1 300 patients aged 65 years and older who have just been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. The second part will be a randomised controlled trial assessing whether the software tool improves the management of atrial fibrillation in the trial’s 1 080 patients compared with usual care. Twelve comorbidities will be the focus in the trial: hypertension; hyperlipidaemia; heart failure; overweight/obesity; renal insufficiency; smoking; diabetes; coronary heart disease; valvular disease; physical activity; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/asthma; and alcohol consumption. Prof. Heidbuchel added: “Our vision is that EHRA-PATHS will demonstrate through its clinical trial that a systematic approach to comorbidities, based on a software tool with interdependent care pathways, leads to better multidisciplinary management of patients with atrial fibrillation. If the project succeeds, it will have delivered a tool to the medical community to improve atrial fibrillation management, and to make it more uniform all over Europe and beyond.” The EHRA - PATHS (Addressing multimorbidity in elderly atrial fibrillation patients through interdisciplinary, tailored, patient-centered care pathways) project ends in 2026. For more information, please see: EHRA - PATHS project website


EHRA - PATHS, atrial fibrillation, heart, heart rhythm disorder, comorbidity, software, elderly

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