Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm that affects at least 240,000 Australians, including more than 5% of people aged over 65 years. People with AF are five to seven times more likely than the general population to have a stroke, which will likely be more severe and debilitating and is also highly preventable with appropriate medical treatment. It is of concern that many people are unaware that they have AF because they have no symptoms, and often receive the first diagnosis when they present at hospital with a stroke. The direct health system costs of AF in Australia exceed $870 million each year.
Early identification of AF may help to prevent stroke. SEARCH-AF is a unique research project using innovative technology to screen for AF in community pharmacies. Pharmacists will screen for AF using pulse check and an iPhone hand-held electrocardiogram (ECG), with onward referral to the treating medical practitioner should any abnormality be identified.
Ms Nicole Lowres aims to establish the feasibility and impact of this screening program in people aged 65 years and over. Ultimately, this project could improve the health of many Australians by preventing stroke and reducing hospitalisations, and reduce the overall health system costs related to the burden of stroke.