February is American Heart Month, which means it's an excellent time to educate patients about heart-healthy behaviors to manage and prevent heart disease—the leading cause of death for people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States.1 According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year, and coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. In fact, about 18.2 million adults, or 6.7% of Americans age 20 and older, have coronary heart disease.
Heart Deaths Increased & Heart-Related Diagnostic Testing Decreased During the Pandemic
Since the onset of the pandemic, concerns have arisen about COVID-19's indirect effects on higher-risk patients with chronic medical conditions, making it more important than ever to educate patients. In fact, findings from two new studies published in the American College of Cardiology Journal indicate that heart deaths increased and heart-related diagnostic testing decreased during the pandemic. One study even revealed that the risk of dying from heart disease increased during the coronavirus lockdowns last spring, likely because people were too scared to seek treatment or visit a hospital.2
Using data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, researchers compared death rates from heart-related causes in the United States after the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic (mid-March to June 2020) to the 11 weeks before the pandemic and to the same period in 2019. It revealed that deaths from heart disease, including heart attacks and those related to high blood pressure complications, increased by 11% and 17%, respectively, compared to 2019.3
In a related international study spanning 108 countries, researchers found fewer people underwent their scheduled heart-related diagnostic tests during the pandemic. Critical tests, including heart imaging exams, stress tests, and coronary angiography, decreased by 42% from March 2019 to March 2020 and by 64% from April 2019 to April 2020.
Emphasize Patient Education & Patient Access During American Heart Month
Given these findings, what are health systems to do? Here are four ideas your health system can use to educate patients on heart-healthy behaviors this February.
- Step Up Your Communication. Share protocols that your health system has in place to reassure patients your healthcare facility is safe for appointments and care. This can be done by sending text messages to your patients informing them of your protocols and setting expectations for when they visit your facility. Learn more about our Communication & Reminders solution.
You can also conduct targeted campaigns for those at high-risk for cardiovascular disease and those who have already been diagnosed. By doing so, your health system can build patient loyalty by promoting wellness services, health screenings, and even remind patients to seek treatment for a medical emergency. Learn more about our Health & Wellness Campaigns.
- Monitor Patients Remotely. Utilize low tech, easy to implement solutions to easily monitor patients remotely. One way to do so is by asking patients to report cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and medication compliance via SMS. This allows your health system to ensure patient safety through continuous monitoring and enables real-time escalation whenever clinical intervention is necessary.
- Rebook Deferred Care. Encourage patients that may have missed any cardiac diagnostic testing or deferred preventive care to reschedule at the earliest time possible. Patient adherence initiatives can encourage patients to complete diagnostic tests, maintain and refill medications, and see their doctor for preventive and follow-up visits.
By utilizing an online scheduling tool, your health system can provide a convenient way for those patients to reschedule their missed appointment, and even better, the burden of doing so isn't placed on your staff. Learn more about our Intelligent Scheduling solution.
- Encourage Healthy Habits Through Classes and Events. Encourage patients to foster heart-healthy habits like choosing healthy food and drinks, keeping a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, and avoiding smoking. This can be done by offering a variety of classes and events to your patients. Even more, give patients the option to choose whether they attend these classes and events in-person or online to maximize attendance and provide convenience for patients. Learn more about our Class & Event Registration.
Skipping scheduled exams or delaying care may have significant or even life-threatening complications. American Heart Month provides the perfect platform for patient education and targeted outreach to acquire, engage, and educate patients about heart health. To learn more about how we helped one national leader in heart health increase heart scans appointments, click here.