Key recommendations to improve outcomes for women living with heart failure
As part of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease’s national patient education campaign on heart failure and women, the organization has just released findings from its first national research on heart failure and women. Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalizations in women over the age of 65¹, and women account for 50 percent of all heart failure-related hospital admissions² yet only 25 percent of women are involved in heart failure research studies.³ Women with heart failure tend to experience a greater burden of symptoms, such as depression, and a reduced quality of life, compared to men.
In November 2014, WomenHeart introduced a national patient survey designed to gain a better understanding of how women are managing their heart failure. Additionally, between November 2014 and April 2015, WomenHeart also conducted two telephone focus groups and two in-person patient roundtable discussions composed of women heart failure patients to learn how heart failure affects women’s health and their lives.
Research participants identified key areas where improvements are needed to help them manage their heart failure:
- Reduce misdiagnoses of heart failure in women, which are preventing or delaying proper treatment
- Address mental health issues associated with heart failure
- Enhance patient education for women heart failure patients
- Remove barriers to cardiac rehabilitation
- Improve access to support groups for women heart failure patients
- Improve two-way doctor-patient communication
- Expand access to insurance coverage
- Provide information to women heart failure patients on how they can get involved in heart health awareness activities
After reviewing the results of the heart failure survey, patient roundtables, and patient focus groups, WomenHeart conducted a Key Opinion Leaders work session to come up with recommendations to improve diagnosis, care and quality of life of women heart failure patients. The following top recommendations came out of the Key Opinion Leaders work session:
- Physicians and other health care providers should receive continuing education that includes sex and age sensitivity as well as cultural competency, listening skills, and a holistic approach, so they can better address the specific medical needs of women heart failure patients – including their unique mental health needs.
- Medical school and residency training should be modified to build communication skills to improve doctor-patient communication.
- Health care providers should encourage their women heart failure patients to participate in pre-clinical and clinical research studies to ensure that medicines and devices used to treat women with heart failure have been tested in women.
- Physicians and other health care providers should consistently talk to their women heart failure patients about the value of cardiac rehabilitation in improving patient outcomes, reducing hospital readmission rates, and lowering health care costs.
“We want to use these important research findings on women and heart failure as a platform to work with our partners in the public and private sectors to increase awareness about heart failure in women and improve the diagnosis and care of all women living with this life-threatening condition,” said Mary McGowan, Chief Executive Officer, WomenHeart. “By working together, we can make a difference in the lives of women living with heart failure and improve outcomes,” she added.
Learn more about WomenHeart’s national campaign on heart failure and women at: http://www.womenheart.org/?page=SupportCHF.
Special thanks to St. Jude Medical Foundation and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation for supporting the campaign through grants, and to Amgen for sponsoring the campaign.
¹Harvard Women’s Health Watch newsletter, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard medical School, September 2008. Available online at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2008/September/Heart_failure_in_women
²Cleveland Clinic Heart Failure in Women web page. Updated 2014. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/disorders/heart-failure-what-is/heart-failure-women
³Harvard Women’s Health Watch newsletter, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard medical School, September 2008. Available online at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2008/September/Heart_failure_in_women