Study reveals patients don’t know much about their heart implants—but they want to

Research presented at the Heart Rhythm Society’s 40th annual scientific sessions in San Francisco May 7 suggests heart patients with implanted electronic devices know less about their therapies than they think they do.

Divyang Patel, MD, and Khaldoun Tarakji, MD, MPH, both of the Cleveland Clinic, led a team that conducted a survey of 344 patients who’d visited the center’s outpatient clinic for an in-person evaluation of their cardiac implantable electronic device (CIED) between July and December of 2018. Participants were asked to complete a one-sheet questionnaire that asked them multiple choice questions about their type of CIED, original indications for the device, its functionality, manufacturer and number of active leads, estimated battery life and the number of shocks it delivers.

Comparing patients’ responses to their established interrogation reports, the researchers found 62% of the pool believed they were knowledgeable about their device, but 84% missed at least one question. Forty-eight percent missed at least two questions.

The authors also asked patients which data was most important to them as a CIED user, finding 81% wanted more information about their device’s battery life, 76% wanted more information about activity levels, 73% wanted to know more about heart rate trends and 71% wanted more information about ventricular arrhythmias.

Patel said in a release his team’s results indicate a discrepancy between what patients think they know about their devices and their actual knowledge of CIEDs.

“While some patients have lived with these devices for years, our results show that there is still a general lack of knowledge,” he said. “As digital health evolves, patients are able to access their own health data in real-time. By equipping device users to be active participants in their health, we hope they will be able to utilize their own data and be empowered to be more engaged in their care and live a healthier life.”

Tarakji agreed, noting in the release that with the recent rise in digital health technologies and increased integration with smart devices like mobile phones, healthcare professionals will need to act as guides for patients who want to make the most out of their therapy.

“Our study is one of the first to give insight into the voice of the patient and what they desire to know,” he said. “Now, the physician community, along with device manufacturers and medical societies, need to work together on a plan for optimal education and success.”