Health and Advocacy Leaders Mobilize to Bring Attention to Atrial Fibrillation, a Costly and Misunderstood Cardiovascular Disease
June 1, 2009 5:21 AM CT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2009 – Washington, D.C. – As the nation’s 76 million Baby Boomers approach their Medicare years, a diverse group of healthcare leaders today joined together to launch AF Stat™: A Call to Action for Atrial Fibrillation (AF Stat), and announce the formation of the AF Stat Working Group. This first-of-its-kind, national initiative aims to elevate understanding, diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation (AFib) among all those affected by this serious and increasingly prevalent cardiovascular disease.
Approximately 2.5 million Americans currently have AFib, but because the risk increases with age, this number is expected to rise dramatically as the U.S. population gets older1. Characterized by a very irregular and frequently fast heart rate, AFib is associated with a five-fold increase in risk for stroke2; worsens underlying cardiovascular disease3; and doubles the risk of all-cause mortality4. It also costs the nation $6.65 billion annually, much of which could be attributed to the increased hospital in-patient, emergency and medical services utilization rates for people with AFib5.
“Reducing the impact of chronic diseases is an essential component to health reform discussions”, said Senator Bill Frist, M.D., who joined the AF Stat Working Group in the role of health policy advisor. “Per-patient medical costs have been found to be as much as five times more for AFib patients than those without the disease, and the impact disproportionately affects Medicare and Medicaid budgets. A collaborative effort like AF Stat will help uncover better ways to address this manageable disease, and could be an important step in lessening its burden on patients and our healthcare system.”
The AF Stat Working Group brings together leaders representing 24 advocacy, medical professional, aging, caregiver, employer, payer and cardiovascular organizations. The group’s first goal is to draft an AF Call to Action outlining the barriers and priority steps needed to improve AFib management. The group will then work together to implement those actions.
“AFib is emotionally and physically draining and the risks are potentially debilitating,” noted NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, legendary former player, coach and general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers. “I’ve always been active and in control and cannot imagine how life would be if I suffered a stroke. My biggest fear is to no longer be physically viable and become a burden on my family. That was a huge motivator in how thoroughly I researched AFib even though there was not a lot of information out there.”
“Out of Sync: The State of AFib” Survey
Today’s release of a survey measuring physician, nurse and patient AFib experiences and attitudes, “Out of Sync: The State of AFib”, shows that Mr. West is not alone in his search for information, reinforcing the need for AF Stat.
The survey measured the experiences and attitudes of physicians, nurses and patients with AFib. The results indicate a clear disconnect between medical professionals and patients about their understanding of AFib and its risks, demonstrating a need for better educational resources:
- Less than half of AFib patients fully appreciate or recognize the health consequences of the condition, particularly their increased risk of stroke and heart failure:
- While almost all physicians (97 percent) think their AFib patients are at severe/moderate risk of stroke, less than half (45 percent) of AFib patients think they are at risk.
- More than 90 percent of physicians think their AFib patients are at severe/moderate risk of death from heart-related causes. In contrast, fewer than 40 percent of patients think they are at risk.
- More than half of doctors (53 percent) believe there is a lack of available support and materials for patients with AFib; 42 percent of doctors reported having to use their own drawings, as opposed to using charts, posters or anatomical models, to guide patient discussions about AFib, while nurses report using their hands or charts/posters6 .
“The complex nature of AFib requires individualized patient care and is a major barrier to optimal management and underscores the need for comprehensive education on AFib for a wide range of audiences,” said Eric Prystowsky, M.D., AF Stat Medical Chair and director of the Clinical Electrophysiology Laboratory, St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.“AF Stat will begin to fill awareness and educational gaps and identify quality and policy measures, which will hopefully lead to better patient outcomes.”
About the “Out of Sync” Survey
“Out of Sync: The State of AFib in America” survey was conducted by Yankelovich, part of the Futures Company, to compare the perspectives of patients who have been diagnosed with AFib, and the physicians and nurses who treat the patients with the disease. Survey results were obtained through online interviews among 200 doctors and 200 nurses who treat AFib patients, and 500 AFib patients, representative of a national sample. Interviews took place between March 13–20, 2009.
About AF Stat™: A Call to Action for Atrial Fibrillation
AF Stat is a collaboration of healthcare leaders and organizations working to improve the health and well-being of people affected by atrial fibrillation. AF Stat is raising awareness of AFib as a complex, costly, progressive and often debilitating disease. It also is calling for and helping promote a change in attitudes and behaviors to enhance AFib understanding, diagnosis and management. AF Stat is an initiative sponsored by sanofi-aventis U.S. LLC.