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Adults with congenital heart disease (CHD) face a unique set of medical, psychological, and social challenges, and access to specialised adult congenital heart disease care has been associated with improved outcomes. Rural adults with CHD may represent a uniquely disadvantaged group given additional challenges when accessing specialised care. The aim of this study was to investigate the challenges faced by adults with CHD in accessing outpatient cardiac care, with a specific focus on understanding differences between urban- and rural-dwelling patients.
This cross-sectional, survey-based study took place in the adult congenital heart disease clinic at an urban academic medical center. Additional medical information was abstracted in a retrospective manner from the electronic health record. In addition to descriptive statistics, t-tests and Chi-square tests were performed to investigate differences between urban and rural dwelling patients.
A total of 100 patients participated in the study (mean age 40 ± 13 years, 60% female, 18% rural dwelling). Across the total sample, the median driving distance to clinic was 20 miles (interquartile range 12–77); it was 15 miles for urban dwellers and 77 miles for rural dwelling patients (p < 0.001). The most commonly identified barriers to cardiac clinic visits were financial losses related to taking time off from work (39%), distance of clinic from home (33%), and weather (33%). Compared to urban dwelling patients, on average those who were rural dwelling had a lower level of education (p = 0.04), more difficulty paying insurance premiums (p < 0.001) and copays (p = 0.005), and were more likely to identify the distance from clinic (p = 0.05) and having to go into the city (p = 0.02) as barriers to clinic appointments.
The financial impact and distance to clinic were the most commonly identified barriers to outpatient cardiac care in this cohort of adults with CHD. These barriers, along with difficulty paying insurance premiums, are more common in rural dwelling patients. Initiatives such as telemedicine visits or providing financial subsidies for travel and treatment could help to expand specialty adult congenital heart disease care and better serve this growing patient population.
The Fontan Outcomes Network was created to improve outcomes for children and adults with single ventricle CHD living with Fontan circulation. The network mission is to optimise longevity and quality of life by improving physical health, neurodevelopmental outcomes, resilience, and emotional health for these individuals and their families. This manuscript describes the systematic design of this new learning health network, including the initial steps in development of a national, lifespan registry, and pilot testing of data collection forms at 10 congenital heart centres.
Advance care planning and palliative care are gaining recognition as critical care components for adults with CHD, yet these often do not occur. Study objectives were to evaluate ACHD providers’ 1) comfort managing patients’ physical symptoms and psychosocial needs and 2) perspectives on the decision/timing of advance care planning initiation and palliative care referral.
Cross-sectional study of ACHD providers. Six hypothetical patients were described in case format, followed by questions regarding provider comfort managing symptoms, initiating advance care planning, and palliative care referral.
Fifty providers (72% physicians) completed surveys. Participants reported low levels of personal palliative care knowledge, without variation by gender, years in practice, or prior palliative care training. Providers appeared more comfortable managing physical symptoms and discussing prognosis than addressing psychosocial needs. Providers recognised advance directives as important, although the percentage who would initiate advance care planning ranged from 18 to 67% and referral to palliative care from 14 to 32%. Barriers and facilitators to discussing advance care planning with patients were identified. Over 20% indicated that advance care planning and end-of-life discussions are best initiated with the development of at least one life-threatening complication/hospitalisation.
Providers noted high value in advance directives yet were themselves less likely to initiate advance care planning or refer to palliative care. This raises the critical questions of when, how, and by whom discussion of these important matters should be initiated and how best to support ACHD providers in these endeavours.
Subspecialisation is increasingly a fundamental part of the contemporary practice of medicine. However, little is known about how medical trainees learn in the modern era, and particularly in growing and relatively new subspecialties, such as adult CHD. The purpose of this study was to assess institutional-led and self-directed learning strategies of adult CHD fellows.
This international, cross-sectional online survey was conducted by the International Society for Adult Congenital Heart Disease and consisted primarily of categorical questions and Likert rating scales. All current or recent (i.e., those within 2 years of training) fellows who reported training in adult CHD (within adult/paediatric cardiology training or within subspecialty fellowships) were eligible.
A total of 75 fellows participated in the survey: mean age: 34 ± 5; 35 (47%) female. Most adult CHD subspecialty fellows considered case-based teaching (58%) as “very helpful”, while topic-based teaching was considered “helpful” (67%); p = 0.003 (favouring case-based). When facing a non-urgent clinical dilemma, fellows reported that they were more likely to search for information online (58%) than consult a faculty member (29%) or textbook (3%). Many (69%) fellows use their smartphones at least once daily to search for information during regular clinical work.
Fellows receiving adult CHD training reported a preference for case-based learning and frequent use of online material and smartphones. These findings may be incorporated into the design and enhancement of fellowships and development of online training resources.
Adults with congenital heart disease face psychological challenges although an understanding of depression vs. anxiety symptoms is unclear. We analyzed the prevalence of elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression and explored associations with demographic and medical factors as well as quality of life.
Adults with congenital heart disease enrolled from an outpatient clinic completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and two measures of quality of life: the Linear Analogue Scale and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Medical data were obtained by chart review.
Of 130 patients (median age = 32 years; 55% female), 55 (42%) had elevated anxiety symptoms and 16 (12%) had elevated depression symptoms on subscales of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Most patients with elevated depression symptoms also had elevated anxiety symptoms (15/16; 94%). Of 56 patients with at least one elevated subscale, 37 (66%) were not receiving mental health treatment. Compared to patients with 0 or 1 elevated subscales, patients with elevations in both (n=15) were less likely to be studying or working (47% vs. 81%; p=0.016) and reported lower scores on the Linear Analogue Scale (60 vs. 81, p<0.001) and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (14 vs. 28, p<0.001).
Among adults with congenital heart disease, elevated anxiety symptoms are common and typically accompany elevated depressive symptoms. The combination is associated with unemployment and lower quality of life. Improved strategies to provide psychosocial care and support appropriate engagement in employment are required.
The adult CHD population is increasing and ageing and remains at high risk for morbidity and mortality. In a retrospective single-centre study, we conducted a comprehensive review of non-elective hospitalisations of adults with CHD and explored factors associated with length of stay.
We identified adults (⩾18 years) with CHD admitted during a 12-month period and managed by the adult CHD service. Data regarding demographics, cardiac history, hospital admission, resource utilisation, and length of stay were extracted.
There were 103 admissions of 91 patients (age 37±10 years; 52% female). Of 91 patients, 96% had moderate or complex defects. Of 103 admissions, 45% were through the emergency department. The most common reasons for admission were arrhythmia (37%) and heart failure (28%); 29% of admissions included a stay in the ICU. The mean number of consultations by other services was 2.0. Electrophysiology and anaesthesiology departments were most frequently consulted. After removing outliers, the mean length of stay was 7.9±7.4 days (median=5 days). The length of stay was longer for patients admitted for heart failure (12.2±10.3 days; p=0.001) and admitted directly to the ward (9.6±8.9 days; p=0.009).
Among non-electively hospitalised adults with CHD in a tertiary-care centre, management often entails an interdisciplinary approach, and the length of stay is longest for patients admitted with heart failure. The healthcare system must ensure optimal resources to maintain high-quality care for this expanding patient population.
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