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The Heart Rhythm and Stroke Prevention Group at the Heart Research Institute has published a key paper in the Medical Journal of Australia about the AF Self-SMART study. This study shows that use of atrial fibrillation (AF) self-screening stations in GP waiting rooms could improve AF screening and diagnosis rates, and reduce the number of AF-related strokes.

AF is the most common abnormal heart rhythm and is often asymptomatic. About one third of all strokes – usually the most severe ones – are linked to AF.

“Anyone over 45 has a one in three risk of developing AF. The prevalence of AF rises with age, affecting about 10 per cent of people aged 70 and over, and increases their stroke risk by up to five times,” says Prof Ben Freedman, leader of the Heart Rhythm and Stroke Prevention Group.

AF screening is recommended for people aged 65 years and over, but only about 11 per cent of eligible patients are screened by their GPs, often due to time constraints.

The AF Self-SMART intervention study assessed whether AF self-screening stations in GP waiting rooms could improve AF screening, diagnosis and stroke risk management.

The study installed AF self-screening stations in participating GP waiting rooms, coupled with custom software that automatically identified eligible patients and transferred their screening results to their electronic medical records. Use of the self-screening stations achieved a screening rate almost four times as high as that found by a survey of standard practice, and doubled the AF diagnosis rate.

“Our fully integrated approach to AF self-screening could overcome time problems for GPs and increase screening rates,” says Prof Freedman.

By detect­ing AF ear­ly, we could dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduce the risk of stroke and save thou­sands of lives.”

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