I wrote a piece on the importance of conversations with our older patients (and the inability of technology to replace these) on Kevin MD last week. I’m providing a link to the article here. In an era of rapid technological change, it’s important to remember that our older patients are unique, not only in their life experiences, but also in their impairments, care preferences, and social context. While technology will play a role, it’s essential not to lose sight of the importance of investing in the future geriatric workforce. In addition, developing novel clinical programs tailored towards older adults’ needs, given our changing demographics, is vital. There’s a lot of innovative work being done in this arena which we’ll be featuring (along with other content) in the coming year.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting that was held in Boston, MA this year with the theme centralized around “The Purpose of Longer Lives.” GSA is one of the oldest and largest interdisciplinary organizations that is well-attended nationally by scientists, clinicians, and students who all have one thing in common: a passion for gerontology research.
Aside from connecting with many respectable researchers in the field, I also had the opportunity to present findings from our qualitative research focusing on decisional needs among older adults with cardiovascular disease. Specifically, our study sought to investigate the perspectives of older adults on coronary interventional procedures after their hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction (otherwise known as AMI, or heart attack). In recent decades, older adults have been undergoing more coronary revascularization procedures for AMI (stent placements and coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG)); consequently, procedure-related risks are more common. Moreover, time-sensitive settings during AMI at times do not allow for easy shared decision-making (SDM) discussions with their clinicians to detail these risks. Our study therefore was interested in probing further into AMI patients’ decision-making process – and to identify what factors, exactly, that led them to decide on whether or not to undergo a coronary revascularization procedure.
Based on our preliminary research from 15 patients who had been hospitalized with AMI and discharged home, the main themes that emerged were as follows:
Procedural risks are perceived to be minimal when compared to perceived benefits.
Perceived procedural risks – which were generally described to be stroke, bleeding, and death – were viewed minimally when compared to the benefits. When asked to list the perceived benefits, patients mentioned “living a healthy life,” “no pains,” and “prevention of future heart attacks.”
Some respondents reported that the alternative to a procedure was death.
“I would not have come to the hospital if I wanted to commit suicide,” stated one respondent. While this may be seemingly viewed as a more extreme perception of the alternative to the procedure, this theme was seen across several respondents. For example, another said, “That [turning down the procedure] didn’t enter my mind at all. In fact, I would’ve been dead at this point.” Most participants viewed that they “had no choice,” stating that they would not have been alive without the interventional procedure, and as a result, viewed the procedure was an absolute necessity.
Participants place a high level of trust in their cardiologists when making decisions.
A majority of respondents revealed that faith in the physician was also a major factor contributing to their decision-making process—regardless of how long they have known their cardiologist. While one participant was loyal to their outpatient cardiologist of 28 years, others put an equal amount of trust in the interventional cardiologist whom they met on the same day of the procedure. One respondent, who was unconscious during her episode, stated: “I wasn’t thinking straight, but I had total belief that the doctors were going to take care of me.”
Receiving procedural information, before or after the procedure, could aid in a better overall satisfaction of the experience.
All participants expressed that it was very important for them to understand their heart disease and associated procedures – even if it is after the procedure was completed. This was especially predominant among participants who had an ST-elevation MI (STEMI) who underwent their procedure rapidly. Some suggestions on how this could be achieved include providing a copy of the angiogram results, providing pamphlets and brochures, and sending medical personnel to explain the procedure more in-depth immediately pre-procedure, or during early recovery.
All participants highly value what is perceived to be SDM.
All of our respondents, regardless of whether or not they have received a procedure, expressed a desire to have a discussion with their clinicians regarding their treatment options and the risks and benefits of a procedure.
Based on our findings, SDM has the potential to better overall patient knowledge and satisfaction with care. SDM is probably most applicable in the setting of non-ST segment AMI (NSTEMI) where there is time for more informed discussions. Notably, NSTEMI is the most common AMI presentation among older adults. We believe our work supports the future utilization of SDM in clinical practice, and perhaps, a future tool designed to better expedite the SDM process in the inpatient setting.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published 3 related articles on redesigning healthcare around patient priorities, which I’ve linked to below. This work represents the leading edge of incorporating patient priorities into decision making for older adults. The rationale (previously discussed on this blog here, here, and here) is that for many older adults, the applicability of disease-specific guidelines are unclear; many of our therapies (in cardiology and elsewhere) were studied in relatively young patients with few comorbidities. In the setting of limited evidence, the concept of patient priorities care therefore emphasizes eliciting what matters most to patients – and designing care plans around specific, actionable goals.
Patient priorities care in practice is complex since it requires training of clinicians and support staff, engagement of patients, and streamlining of health information technology, all within our current time-limited healthcare environment. Nonetheless, the pilot studies by Naik et al. and Blaum et al. demonstrate that this care model can be effectively implemented in practice. The accompanying editorial by Applegate et al., which states that “Clinical guidelines could be revised to integrate the tradeoffs between multimorbidity, functional status, and polypharmacy in making management decisions” represents a longstanding principle of geriatrics which appears to be gaining traction in other fields (including cardiology).
I recently was interviewed by Dr. Thomas Elwood for the NYU Langone Rusk Podcast Series, available here. I’d encourage people to listen to both sessions; Dr. Elwood asked a wide range of detailed questions relating to Geriatric Cardiology both locally and nationally. Here are a few key points:
Geriatric cardiology is a growing field. Geriatric cardiology has emerged in response to an aging population coupled with advances in cardiovascular therapies. Several programs have been started in the U.S. in the past several years, most combining both patient care and research components.
Frailty is a strong predictor of adverse outcomes in myocardial infarction. Multiple studies have shown frailty, a state of increased vulnerability to physiologic stressors, to be associated with both immediate consequences (procedure-related complications) and long-term sequelae (recurrent myocardial infarction, mortality). The optimal management of frail myocardial infarction patients remains unclear.
Older adults are frequently excluded from clinical trials. While this is improving, thanks to the efforts of funding agencies, patient advocates, and the research community, we’re still largely operating in the dark when it comes to applying evidence-based therapies to patients in their 80’s and 90’s.
Family caregiving is more critical than ever for recovery. As we move towards shorter hospital stays and lower use of skilled nursing facilities, we are asking a lot more of family members than we used to during the early recovery phase. This can lead to both physical and emotional burdens on these caregivers, which the healthcare system is currently under-equipped to address.
There are multiple barriers to cardiac rehabilitation in older adults. These include transportation, cost, and lack of available facilities. Mobile health (mHealth) strategies may provide a means to increase access, but the efficacy of these programs in older adults remains poorly understood.
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting our findings from a qualitative research study we conducted at the AGS 2018 annual meeting, investigating cardiologists’ perspectives and familiarity with shared decision-making (SDM) in older adults after hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction (AMI). SDM has emerged in the literature as a way to move towards patient-centered care and has significant potential to enhance patient adherence, reduce undesired treatments, and improve overall satisfaction with care. In our study, we sought to discover the degree to which practicing cardiologists understood SDM, and whether it was applicable to their practice with older adult patients – particularly in the setting of cardiac catheterization and percutaneous coronary intervention. Five major themes emerged from these interviews:
Age alone is not a major contraindication to intervention.
Our respondents consistently stated that age would not deter them from sending a patient to cardiac catheterization. Instead, they generally brought up “what kind of 80,” distinguishing chronological and biological age. Further, cardiologists generally reported treating older adults similarly to how they would treat their younger counterparts.
SDM is important in the setting of NSTEMI, and not practical in STEMI:
Respondents felt that SDM was useful among patients hospitalized for NSTEMI (who represent the largest proportion of older adults with AMI). Conversely, due to the acuity of STEMI (with system-wide pressures on prompt reperfusion therapy), there was near-universal agreement that SDM was not practical in this setting.
Dementia and functional status emerged as the major contraindications to intervention:
While age was not itself a major contraindication to intervention, age-related impairments such as dementia and functional status were consistently noted as reasons cardiologists would adopt a more conservative approach to care.
There was some variation in cardiologists’ interpretation of SDM:
While most cardiologists saw SDM as a move away from paternalism towards patient-centered care, there was some variation in what the meaning of “shared” was among our respondents. While some respondents felt it was shared between the cardiologist and her patient, others thought it was between the patient and family members, and still others thought it was between the provider and her colleagues.
Apersonalized (and geriatric-informed) risk calculator may help to facilitate SDM in this population for cardiologists:
Cardiologists continually highlighted the paucity of data to guide their care in the older adult population, and emphasized that a risk calculator tailored to these patients would allow them to give more specific and personalized information in order to promote SDM with accurate calculations of risk and benefit.
Our findings have several implications. The take-home message was that cardiologists generally accepted SDM as an optimal model of care, particularly in settings where the risk/benefit ratio was uncertain, but experienced some challenges with accurate prognostication. Future efforts at personalized risk calculators, tailored to older patients’ phenotypes, may help to promote SDM in practice.
By: Eleonore Grant, BA
Eleonore Grant was an Associate Research Coordinator at NYU Langone Health and coordinated studies on shared decision-making. She will be matriculating at medical school this Fall.