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Healthcare providers should individualize patient education

June 19, 2017

DALLAS, June 19, 2017 -- Effective patient education includes more than brochures and written patient information. It should be tailored to a patient's ability to understand recommendations to help them manage their health and control their risk factors, according to an American Heart Association scientific statement published in the Association's journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The statement encourages healthcare professionals to use a multi-faceted approach to help patients and their families learn healthy habits after a heart attack or if they have high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation or heart failure.

"As hospital stays and clinic visits get shorter, the responsibility for patient management has increasingly shifted to patients and their families," said Susan Barnason, Ph.D., R.N., lead author of the statement and professor of nursing practice at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Lincoln.

"Patient education can't be one-size-fits-all. It needs to meet the patients where they are, so clinicians need to assess their patients' health literacy and cognitive skills, and include family and other caregivers when needed," Barnason said.

The statement recommends a collaborative approach between healthcare providers, the patient and their family. For example, a regular follow-up call from a nurse could be helpful for a patient struggling to make healthy lifestyle choices. Registered dieticians or health coaches can help patients solve barriers to healthy lifestyle changes. Nurses can provide brief self-management support and training for patients in regular medical visits.

"Tell your provider if you don't understand your condition or you are unclear about the plan to help you manage it. Your physician may schedule an extended or follow-up visit, or may ask the nurse to answer your immediate questions," Barnason said.

Technological advances, such as such as apps that allow people to measure and monitor blood pressure or track and remind them to take their medication, may make it easier and more engaging for patients to monitor their health and communicate the results with their healthcare providers.

"We can't make you take your pills or check your blood pressure or blood sugar. Some of the new technologies help it become more real - instead of just putting numbers on a piece of paper you can see the trends and get a better picture of how you're doing." Barnason said.
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Co-authors are co-chair of the writing committee Connie White-Williams, Ph.D., R.N., F.N.P.; Laura P. Rossi, Ph.D., R.N.; Mae Centeno, D.N.P., R.N., C.C.N.S., A.C.N.S.-B.C.; Deborah L. Crabbe, M.D.; Kyoung Suk Lee, Ph.D., R.N., M.P.H.; Nancy McCabe, Ph.D., R.N.; Julie Nauser, Ph.D., R.N.; Paula Schulz, Ph.D., R.N.; Kelly Stamp, Ph.D., R.N., A.P.N.-C. and Kathryn Wood, Ph.D., R.N. on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing, Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young, Council on Clinical Cardiology, and Stroke Council. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

Additional Resources:
  • After June 19, 2017 view the manuscript online.
  • Follow AHA/ASA news on Twitter @HeartNews


The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the association's science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical and device manufacturers and health insurance providers are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke - the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

American Heart Association

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