When Adrianus Moerman learned about a new virtual patient education session for his heart condition, he jumped at the chance to attend.
“Curiosity drew me,” says Adrianus, who has arrhythmia, an irregular heart beat that can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slowly, or with an irregular rhythm. “There’s not really a lot in the media about arrhythmia and I was keen to see it there was new information from a trusted source: cardiologists who specialize in this area.”
He joined the International Arrhythmia School virtual event on November 21 from the comfort of his home in northern Ontario. The event featured a session for medical professionals, followed by a tailored presentation for patients and families, covering alcohol use and unrelated procedures in arrhythmia patients.
“These are two hot topics for patients,” explains Dr. Eugene Crystal, the founder of the International Arrhythmia School and a cardiologist at Sunnybrook. “From a physician’s perspective, it’s challenging when you’re seeing 20 to 30 patients a day to address questions that those living with arrhythmia may have. The session we hosted is a pragmatic and efficient way to present an overview of the latest evidence, in layperson language, and also have time for questions from patients.”
Participants were provided with practical tips on drinking alcohol with an arrhythmia, such as ensuring two full days of abstinence and avoiding heavy consumption. Procedures covered included MRI tests, radiation procedures and general tips on what could impact the functioning of patients’ pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs).
Suzette Turner is a nurse practitioner with the Arrhythmia Clinic at Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre and assisted with the event. “The opportunity to virtually learn – although not a new phenomenon – is one of the silver linings of this pandemic. It’s beneficial to both patients and staff and allows for a wider demographic reach, especially during the winter months,” says Suzette.
For Adrianus, the opportunity to engage with experts was a big draw. “Hearing from heart doctors who are on the leading edge of this type of heart issue was really valuable. And the topics were relevant – many of us wonder about having a glass of wine from time-to-time. At the same time, arrhythmia patients will at some point have another medical procedure, like an MRI, and are concerned our condition or heart device may be impacted.”
The International Arrhythmia School was founded when Dr. Crystal spotted a gap between arrhythmia knowledge, rising technology, medical techniques and saw an opportunity to develop an organization specializing in innovation and education. Dr. Crystal hopes that the patient engagement section will continue each year, and notes that the response from patients who attended the inaugural session was overwhelmingly positive.