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In the last decennia heart failure has become one of the most important diseases worldwide in terms of prevalence, morbidity, life expectancy, and in health care management and costs. Despite significant improvements in prevention and treatment, heart failure remains a frequently occurring disorder with increasing incidence and a high hospitalisation and death rate. As major health care problem it deserves full attention of health care authorities. Unfortunately, the seriousness of heart failure and the therapeutic possibilities are often not recognised by those directly involved, i.e. the doctor, the patient or his relatives, let alone that they are known to the general public and health care authorities. The SHAPE study aims at improving heart failure care by increasing awareness and perception of the disease in Europe. Firstly, awareness and perception of heart failure will be documented in the general public, primary care physicians and specialists (cardiologists, internists and geriatricians) in 9 European countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Subsequently, the results will be used to design and carry out suitable awareness and educational programmes in these groups, aimed at improving heart failure care and research. Finally, the results of these programmes will be tested in a second documentation phase and adaptations made where needed. This manuscript describes the rationale and design of the first phase, the Documentation Phase. During the first documentation phase, 800 participants per country selected based on sex, two age groups and urban vs. rural location (100/cell) will be surveyed using a 32-question interview. Questions for the general public focus on recognition, incidence and prevalence, severity and prognosis of the disease in comparison to other disease areas, like cancer, on quality of life, therapeutic possibilities and availability of care. The primary care physician (PCP) survey aims at receiving a minimum of 300 responses. A questionnaire with 33 closed questions will be used covering the PCP's knowledge of heart failure, including prevalence, aetiology, new diagnostic and therapeutic developments and health care costs. Questions concerning diagnostic procedures and various treatments carried out by the PCP in his own practice, as well as referral patterns for diagnostic procedures and for specialist care. Questions relating to the type of practice and number of patients in each PCP's clinical practice. A minimum of 150 cardiologists and 150 internists + geriatricians will be surveyed per country. The specialist's questionnaire contains 31 questions focusing on identification of heart failure patients, patients at risk, use and availability of diagnostic tools, importance of therapies and order of treatment, perceived risks of treatment, relevance of counselling and advice, use of paramedical personnel, and questions concerning practice size, type of practice and number of patients with heart failure. Conclusion: This first part of the SHAPE study will provide important information about the level of knowledge and understanding of heart failure of the general public, as well as the perception of the relevance of heart failure and appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic approaches by both the primary care physician and the medical specialist. This knowledge will be extremely valuable when it comes to defining optimal educational programmes in the different target groups studied in SHAPE necessary to implement appropriate heart failure care in Europe and to obtain the means to do so.

Original publication




Journal article


Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy

Publication Date





153 - 159