A BATHURST doctor has put her research skills and practical medical expertise to work to create a life-saving devise that can help prevent strokes.
Ochre Health GP registrar Dr Katrina Giskes has been recognised by GP Synergy, which on Tuesday awarded her the Dr Charlotte Hespe Research Award for the development of a device that screens for atrial fibrillation (AF).
The often undetected heart condition is a heartbeat irregularity that increases the risk of stroke and heart failure.
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The device Dr Giskes has created, with the help of a team at the Heart Research Institute, is used in the waiting room to screen patients for heartbeat irregularities and sends the results automatically to their doctor.
The test itself takes only 30 seconds.
"The information comes straight to the GP before the patient comes into the room and the GP quickly looks over it for that abnormal heart rhythm," Dr Giskes said.
"If it's detected, then stroke preventing medication can be started immediately."
Research has shown that only 11 per cent of Australian GPs follow recommendations to opportunistically screen for AF by pulse palpation among patients aged 65 years and older, with time limitations in general practice consultations the main barrier to implementing screening.
If tests can be done in the waiting room, lives could be saved.
Dr Giskes' desire to do this research was motivated by personal experiences, having lost her father unexpectedly to a stroke.
"I had a family experience when my father had this thing I'm detecting, AF, and he passed away because of the stroke," she said.
"I figured I can pick up patients like himself, to avoid families going through what we needed to go through."
It took about two years to develop the software, which was made possible thanks to a grant from 2019 HCF Research Foundation / Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Foundation Research Grant.
"It enabled me to work on it. It covered me doing the research. I'd work here (at Ochre) 20 hours a week, but the rest of the week I would focus on this little project and some other things," Dr Giskes said.
CEO of GP Synergy Georgina van de Water, who presented the award on Tuesday, spoke highly of Dr Giskes' research and subsequent device.
"As far as supporting community and the healthcare of Australia, [the device] is really significant ... it's quite innovative in its approach and she's able to apply her knowledge from working with people and patients to further enhance its contributions," she said.