Atrial fibrillation (A-Fib or AF) is a condition in which the heart beats irregularly or abnormally fast (arrhythmia), potentially causing blood clots in the heart. If left unattended, atrial fibrillation can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), at least 2.7 million Americans are living with A-Fib. However, only 33% of A-Fib patients believe they have a serious condition, and less than half think they're at increased risk of stroke, heart-related hospitalizations, or death.
As such, properly educating atrial fibrillation patients about their condition and its seriousness is vital to preventing unnecessary hospitalizations or death.
Understanding Atrial Fibrillation
But first, here’s some vital information that will help in educating your patient about their condition. Atrial fibrillation happens when electrical impulses are fired abnormally to the heart's upper chambers (the atria), causing them to beat irregularly.
This leads the upper chambers to contract out of sync with the heart's lower chambers (the ventricles), resulting in an irregular flow of blood from the upper to the lower chambers.
Patients with atrial fibrillation may experience them in the following ways:
- Paroxysmal – Heart rhythm returns to normal on its own or by intervention within seven days.
- Persistent – Irregular rhythm lasting for longer than seven days. Requires medical treatment to return to normal.
- Long-Standing – The heart has an irregular rhythm that lasts longer than 12 months before returning to normal.
- Permanent – The irregular heart rhythm can no longer be restored and requires medication and external assistance to regulate it.
While A-Fib may not cause noticeable symptoms and is not life-threatening in and of itself, the consequences of A-Fib make it a serious medical condition that requires appropriate treatment and care to prevent strokes and other related complications.
Atrial Fibrillation Causes
The risk of atrial fibrillation increases with age, with individuals over 65 being the most common patients. It also occurs in people with an underlying heart condition, as any heart disease can raise a person's risk of A-Fib.
Other common causes and risk factors of A-Fib include:
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid disease
- Alcohol and binge drinking
- Chronic diseases
Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms
The symptoms of atrial fibrillation can range from undetectable to more noticeable symptoms such as:
- Pounding or racing heartbeats
- Irregular heartbeat rhythm
- A feeling of fatigue
- Shortness of breath and related anxiety
- Chest pains
- Cold sweats
Atrial Fibrillation Treatment
There are multiple factors when it comes to the treatment of atrial fibrillation, but the goals are as follows:
- Preventing the formation of blood clots
- Returning the heart rhythm to normal
- Returning the heart rate to normal
- Managing risk factors for stroke
- Preventing additional heart-related problems
How Telehealth and RPM Helps with Atrial Fibrillation Patient Education
Vital Sign Monitoring
Under a dedicated telehealth and RPM program, healthcare providers can measure a patient's heart rate and other vital signs using Bluetooth peripherals such as a blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, and a digital ECG/stethoscope.
Using the data derived from the peripherals, healthcare providers can track patient progress, assess if the medication is working, and make the appropriate adjustments without having to schedule an in-person appointment.
Regular symptom surveys allow patients to check in with their healthcare providers while giving direct feedback about their condition and health status. Symptom surveys also assist doctors in evaluating medication side effects and being up to date on any disease exacerbation, allowing them to intervene if necessary.
Better Medication Adherence
For atrial fibrillation patients with a high risk of strokes, anticoagulant drugs are the recommended treatment for preventing blood clots from forming,
Using our telehealth and RPM platform, healthcare providers can leverage medication reminders and tracking to ensure patients are complying with their anticoagulant therapy plan between appointments.
Easy Access To Educational Material
atrial fibrillation—as well as the anticoagulant therapy they may be taking—through informative videos such as:
- Managing A-Fib Medications
- Managing My A-Fib, a Patient’s Story
- Basic Facts about Atrial Fibrillation
- Treating Atrial Fibrillation
- Living with Atrial Fibrillation
Apart from the educational videos listed above, we also have an extensive video library that helps with patient education on a wide range of topics. The A-Fib preset also includes an A-Fib Zone Tool for patient self-management and recommended symptom survey questions.
How HRS Can Help Educate and Empower Patients with A-Fib
At HRS, we can provide you with the resources you need to help educate and monitor your atrial fibrillation patients through our telehealth and RPM services. Learn more about our services by speaking to one of our digital health specialists today!