European project to improve care for heart patients with multiple health issues

The University of Liverpool is co-leading a major new European research initiative to improve care for patients with multiple chronic health conditions, including the heart disorder atrial fibrillation (AF).

The €6 million AFFIRMO project is funded by Horizon 2020 and led by Professor Gregory Lip at the Liverpool Centre for Cardiovascular Science and Professor Søren Paaske Johnsen from Aalborg University in Denmark.

Multimorbidity is a common condition in older age and can substantially influence people’s health and quality of life, making management more difficult. Meanwhile, AF is the most common heart rhythm disorder with 1 in 4 adults at risk of developing it in their lifetime and is associated with a higher risk of stroke, death, dementia and heart failure.

The main approach underpinning AFFIRMO is to identify older patients with multimorbidity (including AF), assess their individual needs, and deliver a holistic integrated approach to their care that takes account of personal preferences for treatment and considers the social context.

Professor Gregory Lip, Price-Evans Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at University of Liverpool, said: “Our aim is to implement and test the effectiveness of an integrated patient-centred holistic care pathway for the management of older patients with AF and multimorbidity, which will facilitate cooperation among different health disciplines and promote a shared decision-making process. This type of personalised approach could potentially lead to a reduction in physical and mental impairment allowing older patients to cope better with multimorbidity.”

The five-year AFFIRMO project is being carried out by a multidisciplinary consortium of researchers and clinicians from across Europe representing clinical research, epidemiology, data science, biostatistics, pharmacology, economics, psychology and social sciences.

Professor Søren Paaske Johnsen from the Department of Clinical Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine, Aalborg University, said: “We understand and treat patients better if we look at them from a holistic perspective and see them as human beings with coherent systems of diseases. Otherwise, we simply miss the big picture. But it’s a difficult challenge to get the entire healthcare system to organise treatments that match this perspective. It means that we must move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach and instead focus on the patient’s individual situation and actively involve the patient in decisions about the organisation of the care. That is the great challenge we will address with this project.”

Research institutions and organisations from Denmark, England, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are all involved in the project.

Visit the Liverpool Centre for Cardiovascular Science website to learn how our research is tackling high levels of cardiac disease and helping people live longer, healthier lives.