Medibank: Heart-related hospitalisations soar

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One of Australia's leading private health insurers says the number of its customers admitted to hospital for heart-related issues in 2019 increased 13.4 per cent compared to 2017.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, more than one million Australians live with a form of cardiovascular disease, and it was the underlying cause of 27 per cent of all deaths in 2017.

“Cardiovascular disease is our country’s biggest killer and last year we supported 33,302 Medibank and ahm customers admitted to hospital for heart related issues - a 13.4% increase since 2017," said Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr Linda Swan.

The insurer said the increase between 2017 and 2019 was particularly high for women, with a 19 per cent jump in hospital admissions for heart-related issues.

Dr Swan said, "It’s well known that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important to reducing the risk of heart disease by quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure level, exercising and moderating the amount alcohol you drink.

"However the 2019 Australia health tracker released in December shows that we’ve got worse at doing this, with the rates of physical inactivity, obesity and overweight and high blood pressure all increasing. This may be why the number of customers admitted for a cardiac condition has increased across each age bracket from 40 through to 99 over the past three years."

Australia’s Health Tracker 2019, which was produced by Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, measured the health of Australians against 13 risk factors for chronic illness. It found Australia is not on track to reach the health targets for improvement by 2025.

"Of the more than 20,000 Medibank customers who have their first acute cardiac event each year, 50% are then readmitted to hospital for a cardiac-related issue within the next 5 years," continued Dr Swan.

"To help prevent that and give our customers the support they need to improve their health and quality of life, we are piloting our Medibank Heart Health at Home program - one of the first personalised, fully telehealth-delivered cardiac rehabilitation services in Australia. We hope it will increase the uptake of this type of rehabilitation and make it more easily accessible to our rural and regional customers in particular."