Article Title

Atrial fibrillation screen, management, and guideline-recommended therapy in the rural primary care setting: A cross-sectional study and cost-effectiveness analysis of eHealth tools to support all stages of screening


Background: Internationally, most atrial fibrillation (AF) management guidelines recommend opportunistic screening for AF in people ≥65 years of age and oral anticoagulant treatment for those at high stroke risk (CHA₂DS₂-VA≥2). However, gaps remain in screening and treatment.

Methods and Results: General practitioners/nurses at practices in rural Australia (n=8) screened eligible patients (≥65 years of age without AF) using a smartphone ECG during practice visits. eHealth tools included electronic prompts, guideline-based electronic decision support, and regular data reports. Clinical audit tools extracted de-identified data. Results were compared with an earlier study in metropolitan practices (n=8) and nonrandomized control practices (n=69). Cost-effectiveness analysis compared population-based screening with no screening and included screening, treatment, and hospitalization costs for stroke and serious bleeding events. Patients (n=3103, 34%) were screened (mean age, 75.1±6.8 years; 47% men) and 36 (1.2%) new AF cases were confirmed (mean age, 77.0 years; 64% men; mean CHA₂DS₂-VA, 3.2). Oral anticoagulant treatment rates for patients with CHA₂DS₂-VA≥2 were 82% (screen detected) versus 74% (preexisting AF)(P=NS), similar to metropolitan and nonrandomized control practices. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for population-based screening was AU$16 578 per quality-adjusted life year gained and AU$84 383 per stroke prevented compared with no screening. National implementation would prevent 147 strokes per year. Increasing the proportion screened to 75% would prevent 177 additional strokes per year.

Conclusions: An AF screening program in rural practices, supported by eHealth tools, screened 34% of eligible patients and was cost-effective. Oral anticoagulant treatment rates were relatively high at baseline, trending upward during the study. Increasing the proportion screened would prevent many more strokes with minimal incremental cost-effectiveness ratio change. eHealth tools, including data reports, may be a valuable addition to future programs.

Registration: URL: Unique identifier: ACTRN12618000004268.


cost-effectiveness, digital health, general practice, primary care, rural, stroke prevention

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