"They have an excellent opportunity to be an educator, particularly because of that captive audience," says David Willis, MD, a primary-care physician in Ocala, Fla., who frequently holds educational events for the NSA.
Dr. Willis cites data from a 2010 survey (PDF) compiled by NSA and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals that shows while more than 75% of healthcare providers reported talking to patients about atrial fibrillation (AF) and stroke, nearly half don't recall the conversation. And just 40% of patients initiate the discussion.
Dr. Willis, who served on the steering committee that interpreted the survey results, says that hospitalists dealing with AF patients can "quarterback" care plans and help improve communication with post-discharge physicians, be they primary care or specialists.
"We may not be getting that thought across as well as we think we are," he says.
Improved communication and transitions will become more important as unnecessary readmissions related to AF or stroke financially impact physicians because the government may reduce reimbursements for repeated hospital visits. Dr. Willis suggests that hospitalists take the reins of integrating their patient education efforts into checklists, health information technology, or some formalized process.
"My experience is, if you create protocols, they usually work better than educating people at a provider level," he says.