Foundation studies internet tool to support heart failure patients
Heart failure is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in Canada. Patients continue to have difficulty taking medications properly, following diet recommendations and making lifestyle changes. Dr. Femida Gwadry-Sridhar is being funded by the Foundation to create an internet tool that can help these patients manage these aspects of their condition – which could be particularly beneficial for patients outside of urban areas who wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily access a hospital for regular care.
Dr. Gwadry-Sridhar asked 50 patients from a previous study to fill out a questionnaire to determine their knowledge about the disease, quality of life and compliance with medication. She’s also asked them for feedback on the information and education they’ve received and whether or not they found existing internet tools useful. “Our first study looked at using nurses and pharmacists to encourage better outcomes in heart failure patients, but it was very expensive,” she says. “I wanted to look at an affordable alternative, so I decided to test and evaluate an internet tool with the same benefits.”
Her team will use the information from the questionnaires to create an interactive, web-based tool. It will include educational materials including animation and videos, but will also allow patients to monitor different aspects of their care – such as their weight, their diet and physical activity needs and when they need to take medications or get refills. The initial medical information about the patient would be entered at the hospital, but afterward, patients can track their health anywhere they have a computer with internet connection. “The program would also be smart and would be able to identify certain problems,” Dr. Gwadry-Sridhar explains. “For instance, if the patient’s weight goes up by two pounds in one day – it could be a sign of water retention so the program could pop up with a message asking if the patient remembered to take their diuretics.”
She says this tool could be a useful for patients who live in rural communities or those who don’t have a strong support system at home. “Patients say they feel isolated after leaving the hospital and they don’t know who to call for their questions. They also feel like they’ve lost support and need it outside the family.” With the website, patients would also be able to ask questions about their disease or care and get answers from a nurse or pharmacist who is monitoring the site. As well, they’d have the opportunity to talk to other patients. “They would be able to post comments and questions to their peers. It’s like Facebook for Heart patients. Even the older patients say they want to be trained on the computer. In their own words they said they felt this could save their lives. They felt so isolated after leaving the hospital and really thoughts they would benefit from this support tool connecting them to healthcare workers and fellow patients.”
The system is still under development but Dr. Gwadry-Sridhar hopes to have results by 2010. “We hope to see better self-management of the patients’ heart failure symptoms with fewer doctor and emergency room visits.”
Dr. Gwadry-Sridhar would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Donald Cowan, Dr. Malcolm Arnold and Medmanager (which will provide the web-based tool), as well as the Foundation. “I feel like I’ve really benefited from the support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation,” she says.
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Posted: June 15, 2009
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for reference and education only. This Web article is not intended to be a substitute for a physician’s advice, diagnosis or treatment. The contents do not necessarily represent the Foundation’s opinion or policies and the Heart and Stroke Foundation assumes no responsibility or liability for any inaccuracy or omission of information or from the use of any information or advice in this article.