I recently stumbled across a nifty smartphone app that aims to help patients visualize the electrical mechanism behind Afib, as well as what the disease does to the heart. AFib Educator 2.0 is a free smartphone app developed by AFStat™: A Call to Action for Atrial Fibrillation. According to the About AF Stat section of the app, AF Stat is “a collaboration of health care leaders and organizations working to improve the health and well-being of people affected by…AFib,” and is sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company, Sanofi Aventis U.S. Despite its pharma roots, though, the app does not mention specific drugs used in the management of AFib.
Here at TCAI, our Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Nurse Educators are always looking for new ways to educate AFib patients. AFib is a complex disease that’s hard to wrap your head around as a patient, and the treatment and management options can be confusing. The confusion is compounded by the fact that you can’t actually see AFib, and some patients don’t even feel symptoms of the disease. Yet, AF increases the risk of stroke five times and accounts for about a third of hospitalizations for cardiac rhythm problems. Apps like AFib Educator make it easier for visual learners (myself included) to understand this costly, often debilitating disease that affects more than 2.5 million Americans.
The app is broken down into four sections: About the App, Demo Videos, AFib Management Videos, and AFib Facts. The first and last sections are, in this reviewer’s opinion, not particularly useful. The user is likely to look at each of these sections once and never tap on them again. The app is geared toward healthcare providers, who are likely already familiar with facts about AFib, though there is a handy “Send AFib Facts” button in the AFib Facts at your Fingertips section that allows the provider to e-mail the list of facts, ostensibly to the patient.
The real meat of the app lies in the middle two sections, the first of which features fantastic videos and real-time EKGs of the heart in normal sinus rhythm and AFib. These digitally animated videos are realistic and detailed, and mesmerisingly capture what’s actually going on in the heart when it’s in regular rhythm versus AFib. The AFib Management Videos section is equally as fascinating, depicting the heart’s inner workings after rate and rhythm control drugs are applied. The most telling video here is the AFib & Stroke Risk clip, which shows a clot forming in the upper chambers of the heart and traveling to the brain, demonstrating the real risk of AFib to the patient.
What’s missing from this app? Here is where its sponsorship by a pharmaceutical company is evident—nowhere in the app is there any mention of cardiac ablation—a promising course of treatment for many AFib sufferers. It would be great to be able to show patients animations of the ablation process, since our AFib Nurse Educators are often educating patients prior to cardiac ablation procedures. The app also fails to provide much information on anticoagulation, a big piece of the education process for AFib patients.
All told, though, AFib Educator is a useful app with beautifully-made videos that could serve as a very effective visual aid on a tablet or smartphone at the patient’s bedside or during a doctor’s office visit.