Against that backdrop, the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses (AAHFN) recently formed a partnership with Milner-Fenwick, a division of The Wellness Network, endorsing their 5-part in-facility Heart Failure video series and Living with Heart Failure: A Home Video Guide, 3rd Edition.
The organization, which is more than 8 years old, certifies nurses who work with and educate heart failure patients. It has over 1,900 members, 465 of whom are certified. Nurses must have had at least a year’s experience working in heart failure and pass the Certified Heart Failure Nurse (CHFN) exam.
Improving Patient Outcomes
AAHFN President, Linda Baas, RN, PhD, ACNP, CHFN, is looking for “ways to deliver services for these nurses at the local and national level,” to “define the work of heart failure nurses and strategies to support them.”
According to Baas, AAHFN is dedicated to advancing nursing education, clinical practice and research, to improve heart failure patient outcomes. Their philosophy of heart failure patient education is that it should be patient-centered and culturally relevant and involve mutual goal-setting to meet preferred learning needs.
“Because heart failure must be monitored and closely managed at home, patient education is an essential nursing intervention.”
“Persons with heart failure need to understand the disorder and what they can do to improve their cardiovascular health, manage their treatment plan, and ultimately improve the quantity and quality of life. Because heart failure must be monitored and closely managed at home, patient education is an essential nursing intervention.”
Baas explains that patient education must be reinforced and reiterated. It is a dynamic process, not a static one. Patients may be provided with information during their first hospitalization, but they may miss important points because so much information must be presented.
Effective Resources Through Partnering
Technology can help with these educational challenges and was a motivating factor to collaborate with Milner-Fenwick, a Division of The Wellness Network. “AAHFN is pleased to partner with Milner Fenwick, a Division of The Wellness Network, a company that has been bringing exceptional health care educational resources to market,” says Dr. Baas. “They have high standards and produce multi-media materials that are user friendly and very effective.”
This partnership will build on the existing resources with plans to expand the video series, develop companion materials, and focus on innovative delivery methods beyond hospital walls (web, smart phones, and tablets).
“With changes in Medicare, notably incentives and penalties to reduce readmissions within 30 days of discharge, partnerships are increasingly important for a complicated disease such as heart failure.
Baas notes that it’s not just younger people using these technologies – grandparents use them too. If they use them to share pictures of their grandchildren, she says, they can use them to learn about heart failure too.
Transitions and Collaborative Strategies
Baas notes the importance of “self-management skills for the beginning” of dealing with a heart failure diagnosis, but emphasizes that it is “important to be able to provide transitions from hospital to home and from home to hospital.”
She cites “teach-back,” as a “fairly effective way to help with medication, diet change, and other self-care messages.”
With changes in Medicare, notably incentives and penalties to reduce readmissions within 30 days of discharge, partnerships are increasingly important for a complicated disease such as heart failure.
At the most basic is the partnership between patient and provider; hence the need for personalized patient education. There is also a need for a partnership between a primary care provider and a heart failure specialist when needed.
Moving from the patient to the provider to the hospital—it is essential that “the whole system changes to be able to recognize people at highest risk for readmissions’ says Baas.
Patient assessment might involve collaboration among case managers, social workers, nurses, pharmacists, and doctors. With heart failure, some patients might need palliative care and symptom management. Others might need a “multifaceted” treatment approach that could include, for example, ventricular assist devices or heart transplants.
Personalized Care and Supporting Caregivers
Baas advocates a holistic approach to patient care—one that involves “paying attention to hunches” and not letting patients “slip through the cracks.” She notes the effectiveness of doing rounds with both patients and family members present.
In her current position as nurse practitioner at the Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Program at University of Cincinnati Health, Baas sees heart failure patients in their first visit post-discharge. She understands the challenges of the first visit and the transition from in-patient to outpatient status. Patients receive a follow-up call within 3 days and are seen within 7 days.
Baas advocates a holistic approach to patient care – one that involves “paying attention to hunches” and not letting patients “slip through the cracks.” She notes the effectiveness of doing rounds with both patients and family members present.
As a heart failure nurse, Baas knows the importance of family-centered care and of caring for the caregiver of a heart failure patient. Emotional needs and cultural diversity must also be addressed with caregivers. Caregivers need physical, cognitive, and emotional skills to assist heart failure patients as they move through various stages of need.
All of these communication aids – teach-back, technology, video – can help patient educators with the complexities of heart failure. AAHFN’s goal is to help healthcare professionals learn about all of these and keep up-to-date with changes in the field.
With the new partnership with Milner-Fenwick, a division of The Wellness Network, the association also hopes to be create new resources that will benefit heart failure patients and their families.