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According to the Dallas-based American Heart Association, failure to follow a physician’s advice can delay recovery from illness, increase medical costs, and heighten risk for certain conditions such as cardiovascular disease. That’s why the association has added a new section to its Web site that provides tools for health care professionals and consumers to aid compliance.
"One of the main things professionals have been asking for are tools they can use in clinical practice to help patients self-monitor their compliance and their behaviors. That is why the American Heart Association (AHA) decided to take on this particular site," says Nancy Houston-Miller, BSN, RN, director of the Stanford Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, CA, and head of a task force on patient education for the association.
The site is divided into two areas. The consumer area has information, tools, and tips on following appropriate professional advice about medications, diet, and exercise. The professional area provides tools to help patients comply with a physician’s treatment recommendations. The consumer and professional sites include the following information:
• Professional area.
— Physician’s tool kit.
Includes AHA Cardiovascular Disease Guide-lines, a patient tracking form for the chart, a compliance brochure, tip sheet on increasing patient compliance, and heart-healthy diet references.
— Patient information sheets.
These sheets, which are available on the Web site, provide information on a variety of risk factors including smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, nutrition and weight management, medicines, and diabetes. They include space for individualized patient recommendations and some have charts so patients can track their progress. For example, the physical activity sheet offers suggestions for developing a plan for exercise and tips on how to make the necessary lifestyle changes such as setting specific and realistic goals. It also has a chart to track exercise so the patient can determine if he or she is meeting their goals and information on how to determine your target heart rate to get the most from the exercise program.
— Compliance challenge.
To help develop a team effort, both patients and physicians can take a compliance quiz during an office visit and then sign a compliance pledge.
The physicians quiz includes such "yes" and "no" questions as: "When it comes to developing a health regimen, I involve my patients in the decision, getting their input on prescriptions, diet, and exercise changes," and "Whenever I make diet recommendations, I carefully explain why the changes are important. I also suggest what foods and cooking methods to avoid and new things to try."
The patient’s compliance quiz includes such questions as: "Have you ever been confused about what [medication] side effects to expect and what to do?" and "Are you confused about what type of exercise you should be doing?"
More patient autonomy
• Consumer area.
— Records to increase compliance.
Patients can print charts to help track medications, blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, food intake, and weight management. The charts are designed to help patients develop better daily habits. For example, the cholesterol compliance chart explains what cholesterol levels mean, and provides a section for tracking blood cholesterol level, HDL-cholesterol level, LDL-cholesterol level, and triglyceride level.
— Health risk awareness quiz.
This quiz is designed to help people understand their personal heart health challenges and identify risk factors. Risk factors include less than 30 minutes of physical activity on most days and being 20 pounds or more overweight for a person’s height and build.
— Lifestyle information.
These educational sheets provide tips on such lifestyle issues as nutrition, physical activity, and smoking. For example, tips for handling the urge to smoke include: "Change your habits. Instead of having a cigarette after dinner, brush your teeth or walk the dog," and "Write down the reasons why you quit and look at the list often."
— Medication checkup.
This section gives patients advice on what to do when they are confused about how to take their medications and what they are for. n
For more information about the American Heart Association’s compliance Web site, contact:
• American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231-4596. Telephone: (800) 242-8721. Web site: www.americanheart.org/CAP.