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Heart failure is a common heart disease that affects many older adults in the United States. Surprisingly, about half of these patients also develop depression over time. This is due to many factors, such as returning to the hospital and the fear of death. Unfortunately, even when doctors give patients follow-up treatments, they often don't check for depression.
Professor Bruce Rollman from Pittsburgh says that depression often goes unnoticed and untreated in heart failure patients. But heart failure and depression seem pretty unrelated, so can we blame the doctors for not checking?
Well, now that we know that depression and heart failure may often exist together, it's only good that doctors check for signs of depression in their patients and give them the care they need.
New research shows that depression care administered over the phone can improve the quality of life in patients recovering from heart failure.
So basically, Rollman was interested in seeing if depression treatment could be given to heart failure patients while they were receiving their usual heart failure care. To make this happen, they trained the nurses who were already providing the heart failure care to also deliver the depression care at the same time.
The nurses used this new approach, called a "blended" care model, to support the patients over the phone. Amy Anderson, one of the co-authors, said that this approach gave patients and their families more emotional and educational support.
By spending time talking to the patients and learning about their lives, the doctors and nurses were able to better understand the challenges they were facing and provide more effective support.
And the results were great! After a 12-month follow-up, patients who received the blended care model reported feeling better mentally compared to those who only received routine heart failure care. They had more energy, less fatigue, better moods, and an improved sense of overall well-being.
The purpose of the research is not merely to determine the effect of this blended collaborative care on heart failure patients. The ultimate aim is that healthcare experts can use this innovative approach broadly to help improve lives beyond just managing heart problems.
Importantly, the research shows that medical doctors and nurses can be trained on delivering depression care quite easily, and they can do so over the phone. And since telemedicine is becoming more mainstream, this shouldn't pose much of a challenge.