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Apr 18, 2012

Tips for Making Decisions About Heart Failure Treatment

The key to optimal heart failure treatment is shared decision making between patient and health care provider.

Heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Because heart failure is often chronic, heart failure patients must work closely with their doctor to not only slow the progression of the disease but also control symptoms and improve quality of life. Achieving these goals is often a moving target which changes over time as the disease progresses.

That’s why experts covered importance of good communication and shared decision making between patients and doctors in a recent article published by the American Heart Association’s medical journal Circulation. Through shared decision making, patients and providers can ensure that patients’ values, goals and preferences guide informed decisions that are right for each individual patient. So what are the top things to know about shared decision making in heart failure care?

  1. Shared decision making is the process through which patients and providers work together to choose treatments best suited for each patient.
  1. It is an ongoing process that evolves over time as a patient’s disease and quality of life change.
  1. Each year, patients and providers should meet to review all current and possible treatment options, so that they are both up-to-date and well educated on each.
  1. Treatment options should be reviewed for both anticipated and unanticipated events. That way, both will be prepared and have all the information needed to make the right medical decisions when the time comes.
  1. Patients and providers should not only discuss survival of the disease, but also symptoms, quality of life and obligations for caregivers. By better understanding the course of their disease, patients can better prepare themselves for the effects of heart failure down the road.
  1. Beyond helping educate patients, doctors must also work through emotional readiness with the patient and family to ensure effective communication.
  1. As the end of life is anticipated, doctors should work with the patient to develop a comprehensive plan for end-of-life care that is consistent with patient values, preferences and goals.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Why is shared decision making so important in heart failure care?

  • With a number of treatment options for heart failure patients, choosing which therapies are best for each patient has become increasingly confusing. And with many heart failure patients living longer lives than ever before, there are many treatment decisions to be made over the course of the disease. That's why it's important that heart failure patients work together with their doctors to choose the best treatment options in accordance with their preferences, goals and values.
  • How is heart failure treated?

  • Heart failure is often treated with a combination of medications, medical devices, medical procedures and lifestyle changes. Increasing exercise in combination with these treatments can significantly help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life in heart failure patients.

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