The health and cost burden of heart failure and irregular heartbeat

Investigating the strain heart failure and irregular heartbeat have on our healthcare system

UWA’s Cardiovascular Research Group has been investigating hospitalisations for heart failure and irregular heartbeat for more than 10 years. Hospitalisations for these continue to rise, matching the large numbers seen for heart attack and stroke. By mapping the hospitalisation patterns and associated costs, as well as uncovering the reasons for readmission for heart failure and irregular heartbeat, we will provide information on the health and cost burden of these major conditions.

This project uses anonymized Western Australian hospital and patient data to determine readmissions, providing information for future healthcare needs, and preventing early death.

The project will examine historical hospital data from 1980-2010, while also analysing an additional five to eight years of hospital data to look at the impact of more recent therapies.

These therapies include cardiac ablation, which aims to disrupt the faulty electrical signals causing irregular heartbeat, and ventricular assistance devices that help the heart pump blood around the body for patients when their hearts labour.

The prevalence of both heart failure and atrial fibrillation in the general population is increasing through advances in medical care and people living longer. In the future, our focus will shift to the management of symptoms and daily quality of life as the primary outcomes.Tom Briffa, Associate Professor, School of Population and Global Health

Research team leader:
Associate Professor Tom Briffa


Associate Professor Tom Briffa has spent more than a quarter of a century looking at trends and models of care in cardiovascular disease treatment and management in Australia.

Professor Briffa specialises in researching ways to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and, through this research, has become a founding member of state, national and international associations for cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention.

Associate Professor Tom Briffa

PhD opportunities

The PhD student will investigate the health and cost burden of frequent hospital admissions for heart failure and irregular heartbeat, working with the project team to develop a doctoral project that suits both them and the overarching aims of the project.

This will involve:

  • mapping the trends in hospital admissions for heart failure and irregular heartbeat
  • examining the reasons for frequent hospitalisations with these conditions
  • estimating the cost for different health outcomes and pathways

Once you have ensured you meet the eligibility criteria and are ready to discuss a proposal, contact Associate Professor Tom Briffa.

Eligibility criteria

The application process and general UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

PhD students are required to have quantitative skills or experience in analysing large datasets, or a willingness to undergo additional training in this area.


The readings below are on related projects and topics from the cardiovascular research group and would be of interest to prospective applicants looking to begin a doctoral project in this area.

The readings underpin the prospective applicant’s ability to combine public health, clinical care and health services research to drive healthcare reform; the benchmark of the Cardiovascular Research Group.