Decisions for patients with complex coronary artery disease (CAD) are often made by a team of health-care experts. This can mean treatment with medication or invasive procedures, such as bypass surgery or using balloons and stents to open blocked vessels. However, for many patients, especially those who are older, too frail or have other health problems, the best treatment isn’t obvious.
UCalgary researcher Dr. Tolu Sajobi, PhD, says individuals should always be part of decisions impacting their own health.
“The health-care system isn’t here just to save lives, but to improve patients’ quality of life,” he says. “No one understands their priorities better than the patients themselves. That’s why the patients should always have a voice in decisions about their care.”
Sajobi recently received grants from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and Alberta Innovates, valued at more than $1 million, to explore methodologies that facilitate the integration of patients’ preferences with clinical data to improve decision-making between patients and their care team.
Winnie Pearson intimately knows what it feels like to be a patient. She has undergone numerous procedures during her more than 20 years of lived experience as a heart patient. In that time, she has become an advocate for her health and has been a patient lead on numerous projects. For her, understanding and having a say in her treatment plan is critical.
“Going through heart problems is scary, but it’s calming to understand your options and to share your priorities as a patient,” says Pearson. “There are so many benefits.”
CAD is a result of a buildup of plaque on the wall of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. It’s one of the leading causes of disability and death in the nation, impacting one in 12 Canadians ages 20 and older.
This project will lead to the development of an electronic platform to incorporate patient preferences and clinical best practices. It will highlight the risks and benefits associated with each treatment option. Comparing treatment options will help patients and their health-care providers make decisions together that are best for each person.
Also working on the project are co-principal investigators Drs. Stephen Wilton, MD, Matthew James, MD, PhD, and Michelle Graham, MD.
Sajobi says although the team will build this electronic platform specifically to aid in patient-physician shared decision-making to support patients with complex CAD, once it’s built, it has the potential to support shared decision-making for other disease conditions.