ACC Corner: Meeting the Online Needs of the Cardiovascular Community
Dr. Weaver is past president of the American College of Cardiology and a member of the ACC Board of Trustees.

The current healthcare environment and significant advances in mobile and internet technology are changing the way physicians practice medicine. It is no longer about whether physicians are online, but rather how they are online.

Over the last several years, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) has been working to meet the online and mobile needs of the cardiovascular community. The college in 2008 launched its CardioSmart website, which is aimed at providing patients with tools and resources—both online and off—to be active participants in their own care.

Through the CardioSmart National Health Initiative, the ACC is working with strategic partners to provide information on how to make healthy lifestyle choices and prevent heart disease. An April survey of ACC CardioSurve participants, a nationally representative panel of cardiologists, found that 49 percent would like to see additional patient education tools available moving into the future. The college is working to make this happen.

Likewise, ACC’s Lifelong Learning Portfolio is a direct result of the changing environment and movement toward online education. The portfolio serves to track Maintenance of Certification  and CME credits, as well as opportunities to participate in performance improvement or pay-for-performance activities like the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative.

According to the aforementioned survey, more than 50 percent of participants said they use electronic applications or databases to participate in performance measurement activities. The ACC’s new website makes it easier and more seamless to access these educational resources.

The college recognizes the role of the web and social media tools in quality improvement. As a result, the ACC currently has several mobile applications that provide basic decision support for clinical guidelines and appropriate use criteria (AUC). In addition, quality improvement initiatives like the Door to Balloon (D2B) Alliance, Hospital to Home (H2H) and Imaging in FOCUS are reliant on online forums where participants can share best practices and/or challenges related to reducing D2B times, hospital readmissions and inappropriate imaging, respectively.

With roughly 75 percent of cardiovascular care providers using hand-held devices, such as PDAs, smartphones or iPhones, and approximately the same percentage asking for more mobile and web-based applications, the college is working to pilot several new mobile applications designed to make its clinical guidelines and AUC more accessible at the point of care. We also are exploring ways to link registry use to recognition, reporting and/or even payment.

The ACC also is seeking enhanced ways for cardiac care providers to communicate with each other. The new includes “CardioSource Communities,” where cardiovascular professionals can network, share information and ask questions of each other. The goal is to take what we’ve learned through online learning communities like D2B, H2H and FOCUS to the next level and further enhance the care provided to patients. These communities ideally will provide forums to share strategies, discuss challenges and debate topics relevant to areas of interest (i.e., women in cardiology, interventional cardiology, pediatric cardiology, fellows in training and imaging).

Opportunities abound to leverage emerging technologies to increase patient value and physician interaction across the globe. Mobile devices provide ideal vehicles for decision support tools, while the increasing interoperability of EHRs are making it easier to communicate with patients outside of the office and involve them in their care decisions. 

Dr. Weaver is past president of the American College of Cardiology and a member of the ACC Board of Trustees.