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Patient stories help dispel the fears of cardiac patients
“If I had a heart attack today, I’d feel less worried than I would have done six months ago,” says Chris Hodson, who has collected stories from cardiac rehab patients in the Bravehearts group in New Tredegar. Chris is a PPI Officer in the Caerphilly Locality of Aneurin Bevan Health Board, and has been recording patient stories for about 18 months.
The five stories from patients who have been through cardiac rehab are now being used in three different hospitals to encourage newly diagnosed cardiac patients to see that they have a chance of returning to normal life.
“The power behind the stories is the credibility of patients speaking to patients,” says Chris. “You can stand there in a white coat and tell people to go out and do normal things. But you’re in a white coat so you would say that. So, when someone says ‘I’m 58 and I had a heart attack...’ and then talks about going out, having fun and keeping their heart ticking over, it’s much more believable.”
The stories include some of the clinical aspects of heart failure, but also cover the psychological aspects of diagnosis. “Some of them talk about being scared to do anything afterwards,” says Chris. “It’s helpful to include that psychological aspect of getting back to full health.”
“Having heard these stories I would feel better if I had a heart attack. I would feel encouraged that I could get back to normal, possibly even better than I am now.”
“It’s still fairly early days in this project, but I know that staff have found it encouraging too – particularly the cardiac rehab staff involved.”
Taking away fear
Chris developed the stories for Jackie Austin, a member of the Faculty for Healthcare Improvement, and her team. They have subsequently shown the short films to in-patients who have recently been diagnosed with heart problems in three hospitals.
“Hearing how other patients have coped with diagnosis and been able to lead fulfilling lives afterwards is a powerful motivator for newly-diagnosed patients,” says Jackie. “The important thing about these stories is that they take away some of the fear for people, and offer hope for the future.”
Identifying ways to improve
Improving the treatment of heart failure patients is part of 1000 Lives Plus, and using patient stories is a proven mechanism for improvement.
Carol Tofts, 1000 Lives Plus Programme Lead for Reducing Chronic Heart Failure, recognises how important patient stories can be to inform healthcare professionals. “There is great work being done to help heart failure patients and we need to listen to patients as part of our improvement work. Patient stories can help us identify things we can change, which may be very small yet make a big difference.”
Watch the patient stories here (links to YouTube)
If you want to use these patient stories, please email 1000 Lives Plus
Last updated: 09/08/2010