The State of Atrial Fibrillation in America

A national survey found that physicians and patients have different perspectives regarding the risks associated with atrial fibrillation.

Out of Sync: The State of Atrial Fibrillation in America Survey Findings

National Survey Reveals Patients and Healthcare Professionals are ‘Out of Sync’ About the Potentially Serious Health Consequences of Atrial Fibrillation

The “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 AFib patients.

Methodology

Survey results were obtained through online interviews among 200 doctors and 200 nurses who treat AFib patients, and 500 patients who have been diagnosed with AFib, representative of a national sample. The survey included questions related to the perceived risk of AFib, the level of knowledge and communication about the condition, and the health-related quality of life issues inherent to it. Interviews took place between March 13—20, 2009.

Key Findings26

Patients and healthcare professionals are ‘out of sync’ in understanding the risks associated with atrial fibrillation, a complex, progressive and often debilitating cardiovascular disease.

Despite the fact that AFib doubles the risk of death from heart-related causes,23 increases the risk for stroke five-fold,24 and increases hospitalization rates,25 patients do not fully appreciate or recognize the serious health consequences of the disease.

  • Only a third of patients (33 percent) think AFib is very/extremely serious.
  • Less than half of patients think that they are at moderate or severe increased risk of death from heart-related causes (39 percent), stroke (45 percent), or heart-related hospitalization (40 percent)

In contrast, healthcare professionals are twice as likely as patients to recognize the severe health consequences associated with AFib.

  • More than three out of four doctors (82 percent) and nurses (79 percent) believe patients are at severe/moderate risk of death from heart-related causes.
  • Almost all doctors and nurses (95 percent) believe patients are at severe/moderate risk of having a stroke.
  • Almost all doctors and nurses (93 percent) recognized the risks for heart-related hospitalization.

The lack of AFib resources and gaps in disease knowledge are preventing patients from being diagnosed at the right time and managed appropriately.

  • On average, there is a gap of 1.7 years between patients reporting having AFib symptoms and diagnosis of AFib, potentially leaving them more vulnerable to the consequences of the disease.
  • 58 percent of patients said they sought additional information about the disease.
  • 62 percent are very/extremely interested in learning more about a variety of AFib-related topics, including alternative medicines to treat AFib, the progression of AFib, and the risk of heart failure associated with AFib.
  • Less than half (47 percent) of patients keep up with the latest advancements in AFib treatment.

Healthcare professionals indicated they didn’t have enough tools needed to explain this complex disease.

  • 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.
  • More than half of doctors (53 percent) and 40 percent of nurses say there is a lack of available support for AFib patients.

Despite healthcare professionals saying they regularly discuss specific aspects of AFib, patients do not recall hearing what they were told about the risks or management of AFib.

  • More than 90 percent of doctors and nurses say they often or always discuss preventing a stroke with their AFib patients; yet less than half of patients (43 percent) say they recall this information.
  • More than 80 percent of doctors and nurses claim to often or always discuss slowing down the heart rate with patients; yet only 28 percent of patients say they recall this information.
  • 58 percent of doctors and 75 percent of nurses claim they often or always discuss avoiding AFib-related hospitalization; yet only 19 percent of patients say they recall this information.
  • Similar disconnects existed between patients and healthcare professionals for other aspects of AFib management, including getting the heart back in rhythm, preventing heart failure, decreasing the risk of death associated with AFib and preventing AFib progression.

Click here to download a printer-friendly PDF version of the survey results.

AF Stat™: A Call to Action for Atrial Fibrillation is an initiative sponsored by sanofi-aventis US, LLC.