Empowering Women To Take Charge Of Their Heart Health

posted by Mary McGowan

on May 9, 2016

This is National Women’s Health Week (May 8 – 14). On behalf of the 43 million women living with or at risk for heart disease that WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease represent, I want to call attention to the important role that health plans have in the work that we do.

Patients, family members, and providers depend on health plans to help them prevent disease, manage diagnosis, access treatment and rehabilitation, and maintain a healthy and productive lifestyle. It is only through the establishment of collaboration with all stakeholders that women can take charge of their heart health and have access to the appropriate cardiac care.

If you are a woman living with heart disease, there is a good chance that you will need medications for a lifetime and that you will experience another cardiac event, most likely involving hospitalization. So what exactly do women living with heart disease need from their health care providers and health plans to stay healthy and out of the hospital?

Access to primary care offers women the opportunity to develop a relationship with a team that can guide their decisions throughout the care continuum. Prompt referrals to specialty care and cardiac rehabilitation, with streamlined referrals to subspecialty care as needed, will ensure that appropriate care is not delayed. Comprehensive coverage for cardiac testing, treatments, and devices allows women to focus on their treatment and not their bank accounts. Finally, care coordination among all providers and specific attention to sex differences will enable women to maintain their treatment and medication regime. This is particularly true for elderly women with comorbidities.

Additional services that health plans can provide to assist women include access to health records and test results to better assure communication of information among care providers, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, mental health and home health services, and hassle-free access to medications as prescribed.

Availability of support networks to reinforce treatment plans and provide continuing education is where we come in. WomenHeart is working hard with the help of our dedicated WomenHeart Champions, all women living with heart disease, who have graduated from our Science and Leadership program at the Mayo Clinic, to promote heart healthy choices and to raise the bar on provider/patient encounters. Our Champions educate women on the importance of taking charge of their heart health, lead Support Networks for women living with heart disease at hospitals that are members of WomenHeart’s National Hospital Alliance partnership program and provide online and telephone support. Visit us at www.womenheart.org for more information.

Mary McGowan is CEO of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.

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