New Educational Initiative Launched for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction

Laurie Barclay, MD

April 03, 2008

April 3, 2008 — The American College of Cardiology (ACC) and WebMD announced this week their joint initiative to help educate both clinicians and patients about cardiovascular risk reduction. The collaborative effort, known as "Cardiovascular Risk Reduction: Putting Guidelines Into Practice to Improve Outcomes," will target the educational needs of healthcare professionals, including cardiologists, primary care physicians, and other clinicians, as well as those of patients.

"The combination of the two organizations' expertise and reach to physicians and patients presented a unique opportunity to reduce cardiovascular risk in this country," Steve Zatz, MD, executive vice president of professional services for WebMD, told Medscape Cardiology.

For this initiative, ACC has teamed up with Medscape, the primary portal for physicians and healthcare professionals available through WebMD, which is the leading provider of health information for both consumers and clinicians. Resources provided by the initiative for healthcare practitioners will include continuing education activities, cardiovascular news, and patient information.

"Medscape and the ACC are collaborating on the development of content with each focusing on our respective audiences," Dr. Zatz said. "The collaboration will provide Medscape's members with the latest information regarding the management of cardiovascular risk. We will help clinicians both improve their knowledge and their ability to communicate and motivate their patients to reduce their cardiovascular risk."

"The ACC has long been known for providing the latest clinical information to cardiovascular professionals," Jack Lewin, MD, chief executive officer of the ACC, said in a news release. "As we broaden our reach to provide of-the-minute cardiovascular information to patients as well, we are delighted to be working with WebMD, which has a strong presence and hard-earned reputation in this arena. For professionals, we are very excited to be working with Medscape to deliver the latest educational tools to our physicians, those in other specialties, and their patients."

Although the specific details of future projects are not yet clear, editorial content for the new initiative will be directed by a multidisciplinary steering committee, including leading US experts in cardiology and primary care. Christopher Cannon, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, will chair the steering committee. Dr. Cannon is also editor in chief of ACC's Cardiosource, which offers current clinical information to practicing cardiologists.

"One of the benefits of online communication is being able to provide content in multiple formats, so that we can match the delivery of information with the learning style of the user," Dr. Zatz said. "Content will be available as text, audio, and full-motion video and graphics so that it will be as engaging as possible to our audience."

Scott C. Ratzan, MD, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, is not involved in the ACC-WebMD collaboration but was asked to provide independent commentary. He recommends that content areas to be covered should include "something that can be measured over time — behavior or social change — that ultimately contributes to health."

 

"These types of initiatives that ultimately impact the health literacy of individuals to help people make informed health decisions advance quality health and well-being," Dr. Ratzan said. "There should be an evaluation plan that measures [the effect of this type of initiative] as well as key indicators that illustrate change."

Nathan D. Wong, PhD, FACC, FAHA, professor and director of the Heart Disease Prevention Program in the Division of Cardiology at the University of California, Irvine, also provided independent commentary for Medscape Cardiology.

"With both WebMD/Medscape and the ACC being highly respected organizations within the cardiology community, educational information for both physicians and the public sponsored jointly by the two will be highly regarded as the premier source of guidelines and recommendations," Dr. Wong said.

"Of course, it will be important to have some dialogue with the American Heart Association, which also provides educational materials through their Web site, to ensure there is not too much overlap, as each of the organizations brings important attributes to the area of cardiovascular risk education," he added.

Content areas that Dr. Wong believes should be covered by the new initiative include appropriate use of lipid therapies, including combination treatment, to increase patients getting to goals for lipids; strategies for improving hypertension control, particularly systolic hypertension, which remains the principal problem in most hypertensive patients; resources for smoking cessation; and resources for lifestyle management, particularly aimed to enhance compliance to nutritional and physical activity recommendations that target the US obesity epidemic.

For clinicians, educational materials from this intiative will be available at www.medscape.com/acc and at www.cardiosource.com, ACC's clinical Web site. Clinician-directed patient education materials will be available at Medscape's forthcoming Patient Education Center and at CardioSmart (www.cardiosmart.org), the ACC's new site on cardiovascular disease, prevention, and management for healthcare professionals to use with their patients.

For consumers and patients, information will be available at www.webmd.com and at the newly-launched ACC CardioSmart site (www.cardiosmart.org), which will offer award-winning news and videos provided by WebMD. These patient-friendly sites are intended to promote active participation in cardiovascular health, disease prevention and treatment, and improved physician-patient relationships and communication.

Medscape Medical News is part of Medscape, LLC, whose parent company is WebMD. Dr. Ratzan is an employee of Johnson & Johnson, but he commented for this feature in his capacity as editor of the Journal of Health Communication, a peer-reviewed journal separate from his activities with Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Wong receives grant support and/or honoraria from pharmaceutical companies manufacturing products for hypertension, lipid treatment, and diabetes.

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