If you ask most people about health, they’d probably rank the heart among the scariest parts of the body. You can do without an arm or a leg, even a kidney. But there’s no getting around the fact that we need a healthy heart to live our lives, and that makes the heart a source of fascination and fear.
Consider these sobering statistics from the CDC:
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2015 were in men.
- About 630,000 Americans die from heart disease each year — that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
- Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing about 366,000 people in 2015.
You can eat all the olive oil and oat bran available and run and do the stair-climber until the cows come home, but sometimes that’s not even enough.
Here are a few ways that hospitals can help create a culture centered on cardiovascular health:
1. Coordinate an Emphasis on Overall Wellness
It’s great that your hospital has the best sports medicine center around or the most highly rated trauma unit, but many hospital functions still aim to treat acute issues. Hospitals can play a much larger wellness role that can lift up the whole community.
Every department needs to spread a consistent wellness message. Make sure your hospital has an easily accessible, user-friendly website or app with wellness tips and workout options. Start a running club. Host heart-healthy cooking demonstrations. Facilitate patient peer support groups or mentoring relationships. Hospitals can, and should, take the lead when it comes to encouraging overall community heart health.
2. Staff a Blend of Experience in Your Cardiac Unit
In 1996, Russian President Boris Yeltsin underwent quintuple bypass surgery. At age 88, famed cardiac surgeon Michael Debakey took the lead, supervising a much younger cadre of surgeons in this complicated procedure.
Medicine works best if you think of it as an Olympic relay, but in medicine — especially cardiac care — you want a team of mixed ages and backgrounds. You want the experience of the surgeon that has had 40 years of bypasses under his or her belt alongside the just-out-of-med school, freshly minted doctor who’s as comfortable in the cloud as in the OR. Clinicians with a preventive focus and experts in patient psychology can help in the recovery process. That blend balances and taps into the wisdom of experience while utilizing the latest approaches.
3. Invest in Innovative Tech
A cardiac care unit with the latest equipment — tapping into upcoming 5G and cloud-based technology, for example — will provide the best outcomes. As Clark Lagemann, VP of Health Options Worldwide, tells Becker's Hospital Review: “New technology, although an investment at first, can eventually lead to higher market share and patient volume, and it can also lower reoperation rates, which could improve reimbursements.”
That’s why the American Heart Association has teamed up with PatientBond to create the AHA Health Motivation Platform designed to improve cardiovascular health. The platform combines AHA science-based Care Plans and educational content with PatientBond psychographics and digital engagement to drive desired patient behavior change.
What’s unprecedented about this digital cardiovascular platform is its ability to personalize using psychographic segmentation. We’ve all been to doctor’s offices where there are one-size-fits-all brochures giving wellness tips that are very general and non-specific. Imagine being able to access information about your heart condition, good or bad, in real-time, personalized to resonate with your individual, intrinsic motivations.
You don’t have to imagine it — the AHA and PatientBond are now doing it. Pillars of the program include:
- Condition Management Program: Each condition-specific program will include a combination of assessments, goals and action plans, as well as educational content tailored to the unique needs of each patient. Focus areas include cardiac rehabilitation, coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), acute myocardial infarction (AMI), peripheral artery disease (PAD), diabetes, and other related conditions.
- Health Enhancement Program: An engagement program aimed at managing and improving general population wellness and prevention of cardiovascular disease. The program includes a variety of rich media content designed to create a dynamic, patient-focused engagement experience. The length of the program is designed to be flexible and determined by user needs.
- Readmissions Reduction Program: A discharge management solution focused on reducing hospital readmissions for cardiovascular conditions.
All of these programs are tailored to be individualized and flexible. Technology like PatientBond’s is most effective when integrated into a holistic, healthy care culture that emphasizes improved cardiovascular outcomes. And with the latest digital delivery options for patients combined with good old-fashioned tried-and-true techniques, we can all have a healthy heart.