New iPhone app keeps up the beat
December 7, 2012
In-depth advice on heart-failure meds now at doctors’ fingertips
Story by Colin Zak; photo by Dale MacMillan
When something as simple as walking to his barn left him gasping for breath, Gus Schroeder knew something was wrong. When his doctors gave him the verdict — a diagnosis of heart failure — all the 73-year-old could think of was getting back to doing the things he loves, like walking his German shepherd and being able to tend to his farm.
“I couldn’t even carry two buckets of water, or hay, to feed our animals,” says the Edmonton father of three, who shares his love of rural living with his wife, Lina.
But before Gus could get back into the swing of country life, however, he discovered through experience that it can take several months for doctors to determine the correct medications and precise doses for patients with his condition.
Now, thanks to a new made-in-Alberta iPhone application — Med-HF — that puts comprehensive medication and side-effects information at the fingertips of Alberta’s physicians and pharmacists, more heart failure patients will be feeling better faster.
Designed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) in collaboration with the University of Alberta,
Med-HF’s interactive, step-by-step instructions help clinicians to determine the appropriate dosage of medication and how best to manage complications as they arise, including side effects to medication, interaction with other medications, and other conditions, such as diabetes or other heart diseases. Some 80,000 Albertans are affected by heart failure.
“Heart failure is an extremely common but also very complex condition. What clinicians need is a tool to help manage it,” says Dr. Justin Ezekowitz, Heart Failure Working Group co-chair with the Cardiovascular Health & Stroke Strategic Clinical Network of AHS, and Associate Professor of Cardiology with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.
The AHS Cardiovascular Health & Stroke Strategic Clinical Network (SCN) is a provincewide team of health care professionals, researchers, community leaders, patients and policy makers, tasked with enhancing patient experience and improving outcomes across the province.
“This user-friendly tool also helps clinicians mitigate the adverse effects of the medications to make them as safe as possible for every patient,” adds Dr. Ezekowitz. “Using a tool like this could improve outcomes because reaching target dose means reduced mortality and less chance of being hospital.”
Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Medications for the condition must be measured precisely and, even when that happens, they can have serious side effects, including irregular heart rhythm and reduced kidney function.
Traditionally, clinicians have relied on a combination of national guidelines, individual drug instructions, and their own experience to ensure patients with heart failure are managed appropriately.
“The app provides guidance on how to use these medications and allows patients to be followed more closely by their physician and pharmacist in the community,” says pharmacist Dr. Sheri Koshman.
Rather than having to shuffle through reams of paper or physically track down medical documents, “when complications arise, we now have the answer at our fingertips.”
“Now that my symptoms have leveled off, I can work on my farm again, carrying feed, cleaning stalls and gardening,” says Gus.
“I understand now just how individualized the care needs to be for patients like myself. And I also want to say the care I received was fantastic.”
Visit http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/mobile.asp for more information on Med-HF and other AHS mobile apps.