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Online Education Program Is Effective Source Of Information For Heart Patients

Armen Hareyan's picture

Heart Patient Online Education Program

Patients who used the association's online heart disease education program were more aware of treatment options than Internet-using patients who did not use the association's program.

Those who used the free, patient-friendly Heart Profilers(R) -- an Internet-based education program that guides people through treatment options for various conditions-were also more likely to ask their doctors about their care. These survey results were released in May 2007 and presented at the American Heart Association's 8th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke.

The survey found that patients who used Heart Profilers were 1.58 times more likely than non-users to be aware of four or more atrial fibrillation treatments. And they were 1.56 times more likely to ask their doctors about medications or treatments that they had heard about outside the doctor's

"Patient education and empowerment are key pathways in reducing complications of cardiovascular disease," said Ileana Pina, M.D., professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and senior author of the study. "The Heart Profilers tool empowers patients to take control and manage their condition by providing personalized information in lay language so they have a complete picture of their condition and treatments relevant to their diagnosis profile."

Heart Profilers users can complete a questionnaire to receive a free, confidential, personalized treatment options report. Users receive information based on peer-reviewed, scientifically based literature, regarding success rates of various treatment options, potential medication side effects and questions to ask their healthcare providers. Patients also have access to medical journal abstracts and research studies written in an easy-to-understand format.

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"This format takes the patient to accurate and up-to-date information," Pina said. "Other Internet sites may be replete with misinformation. It may be difficult for the average patient to separate accurate education from false information. Their trust in the American Heart Association allows them to be confident about the education they receive and access for themselves."

The survey was designed to examine the association between use of the Heart Profilers program and patient knowledge and behavior. Patients with coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, high cholesterol or high blood pressure who registered to use Heart Profilers were invited to answer an Internet questionnaire. Their responses were compared with a randomly selected control group who had not used Heart Profilers.

Researchers divided respondents into three groups: (1) those who completed the Heart Profiler questionnaire (users), (2) those who registered but did not complete it (registrants) and (3) a sample of non-users with one of the five heart conditions who were identified via a nationally representative telephone survey (controls). There were 1,039 users, 389 registrants and 1,564 controls.

Consistent with their greater understanding of medications, heart failure and atrial fibrillation patients reported a greater tendency to use their medications as prescribed by their doctor, the researchers said.

"It's beneficial for patients to be educated in this way," Pina said. "When patients understand the different treatment options available to them, they can become more active participants in their healthcare decision making by asking appropriate questions and understanding what their doctor is telling them."

"In essence, when there is a two-way dialogue between patient and doctor (commonly referred to as 'shared decision making'), there is a greater chance that patients believe treatment decisions made with the doctor are the best for them personally. When patients believe the treatment is the right one, they will be more likely to stick with it," she added.

"This is the same logic for having better knowledge about medications -- if you believe in the necessity and importance of the medication, you will be more likely to take it as prescribed," Pina said.

"Physicians are increasingly expected to provide education for patients with chronic cardiovascular diseases. Heart Profilers can serve as a powerful adjunct for physicians to recommend to their patients as well," Pi