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Fighting cardiovascular disease needs to be proactive and extend beyond physicians | Viewpoint


The approach to heart disease can no longer be just the battle of clinicians on the front line of patient care.

As cases of cardiovascular disease (CVD) continue to rise worldwide, healthcare leaders need a strategic approach across their care teams to support better patient outcomes.

Image: Wolters Kluwer Health

Improving cardiovascular disease care requires an enterprise approach that is proactive and unified across the continuum of care, Holly Urban writes.

The prevalence of CVD increased from 271 million in 1990 to 523 million in 2019. Annual CVD deaths are projected to rise to 23.3 million by 2030, which would be responsible for 31.7% of deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Clinicians are eager for more information on how to make their CVD patient care and education more effective and efficient, as evidenced by a seven percent year-over-year jump in searches of one clinical decision support (CDS) platform. Healthcare leaders and administrators can lead the charge toward improved patient health by getting clinicians the tools they need.

To help prevent CVD, lower healthcare costs, and improve outcomes, the approach to fighting CVD can no longer be just the battle of clinicians on the front line of patient care.

Instead, it requires an enterprise approach - one that consists of administrators to frontline staff - that is both proactive and unified across the continuum of care. Per the American Heart Association, health systems can take a systems approach to CVD prevention by implementing systems wide CVD risk assessment strategies using evidence-based tools and providing shared education on prevention broadly across their patient population.

It is also important to involve the patient in their own care through empathetic engagement and education as achieving therapeutic lifestyle changes can often be the cornerstone of cardiovascular health. This means putting the patient at the center of care and ensuring they are an advocating member of their own medical team.

So how can administrators augment their clinicians in fighting CVD?

One way is to understand the importance of social drivers in cardiovascular care and promoting care equity. This includes acknowledging unique symptoms in women at higher risk of misdiagnosis and treatment delay and integrating them into care plans.

Additionally, the guidance to “eat healthy and get exercise” is not as easy for some patients as others. Food deserts, where access to healthy food is limited and affects more than 30 million Americans, along with the time and ability to exercise, make it difficult for some patients.

Another way to help clinicians is to understand and promote the importance of strategies for addressing pre-diabetes and managing type 2 diabetes to reduce the risk of CVD. Many CVD patients are not diagnosed with diabetes until their first cardiac event. Imagine if clinicians could be more proactive, consistently identify patients most at risk for hypertension and pre-diabetes, and reduce progression?

Administrators can develop a system-wide program to disease management that coordinates care across all settings and specialties, as well as routine CVD predictive risk screenings that identify cardiovascular issues early and make timely interventions for greater prevention. Personalizing interventions is crucial to making proactive modifications to lifestyles or medications to ensure patients are living healthy and receiving the necessary medications.

Understanding the benefits of empathetic education for patients and creating engaging and diverse resources can help raise awareness and fight CVD. Patients seek care with differing levels of trust in the healthcare system, along with various physical abilities. Many patients may also not understand their diagnosis and may subsequently struggle with care plan adherence.

The lack of diversity and representation in CVD patient care and education can also be a problem.

Today, many Black adults experience higher rates of risk factors like hypertension and obesity and are twice as likely to die from CVD than White adults, according to the AHA Journals. This underscores the need for administrators to develop educational programs with a comprehensive approach that addresses diversity and avoids impeding patient education.

Patients want to feel seen and heard in their care, which can go a long way in providing holistic care and prevention for all populations to ensure equitable outcomes. A recent presentation at the Scottsdale Institute discussed this topic.

To enhance proactivity, clinicians need real-time access to the latest information on the best clinical practices at their fingertips. They need solutions that can provide the most accurate, updated information wherever they are working - in the office, at home, or on the go - and patient education resources that are representative and tailored to the patient. They also need unified CDS and patient engagement tools that ensure the care team and patients have access to the same information, which also reduces conflicting information given to patients to help maintain treatment adherence.

Healthcare administrators play a key role in fostering strong patient-provider relationships to help drive proactive, high-quality care that addresses and reduces CVD. With clinical decision-making becoming increasingly complex, leaders need to challenge the status quo and introduce new ways of inspiring clinician and patient engagement along the care journey.

Holly Urban, MD, MBA, is vice president of business development and strategy for clinical effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer Health.

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