People with the world’s most common heart rhythm disorder now have a smartphone app to turn to for information, lifestyle suggestions, and access to health professionals. From the University of Birmingham in the UK, healthcare experts are launching a pair of apps for both the patient and the doctor: My AF and AF Manager.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition where the heart beats irregularly, and it is is predictive of blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other cardiovascular complications. The American Heart Association estimates that 2.7 million Americans are currently living with AF, and that number continues to grow every year.
Thankfully, the number of people with smartphones also continues to grow, granting millions access to the countless applications available online. "This presents a big opportunity to improve self management and shared decision making in atrial fibrillation,” explained lead author Dipak Kotecha.
The “My AF” app is for patients, providing information about the condition including risk of other diseases, treatment options, and lifestyle suggestions. App users can keep a diary within the app to keep track of their progress, securely sharing that information with a health professional before each doctor’s appointment, so when doctor and patient are together, they can make the most of their time.
Experts are now working on making the app available in multiple languages
"The app aims to encourage active patient involvement in the management of their condition,” Kotecha explained. “There is evidence that patient education can improve self-care, adherence to therapy, and long-term outcomes."
AF Manager is the sister app to My AF. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can log on to view information shared by their patient. Like a virtual doctor’s visit, those using the AF Manager app can create and recommend personalized treatment plans based on the information inputted by the patient and existing guidelines.
"Many studies have shown that when clinicians follow guideline recommendations, patients have better outcomes," Kotecha said. "All of the decision aids in AF Manager are based on ESC guidelines so we hope this will encourage guideline implementation. Patients will have the option to anonymously donate their data which will enable us to assess the guideline adherence rate."
AF Manager is well on its way to becoming CE certified, making it the first of its kind. According to the European Commission, CE certification assures consumers that a product has been “assessed to meet high safety, health, and environmental protection requirements.”
Both My AF and AF Manager were designed by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Guidelines Task Force on Atrial Fibrillation and the CATCH ME consortium, corresponding to the writing of the 2016 ESC Guidelines on AF. The pair of apps are available for free whether your phone runs on Android or iOS.
"We know that effective management of atrial fibrillation is suited to shared decision making and we have created the apps in the hope of facilitating this process,” Kotecha said. “Sharing information should save clinicians time and enable them to devote consultations to choosing the best treatments."
The objectives and design of the apps were published in the journal EP Europace.