Healing Circles

The effects of a social networking application for individuals with ischemic heart disease


Healing Circles is an evidence-based and patient-informed novel peer-support mobile health program designed to facilitate self-management and support patients in their recovery from and management of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Developed by Curatio, this application is being evaluated by the BCATPR.

 

Background

Cardiovascular disease is one of the top reasons for hospitalizations and a leading cause of death in Canada. Following an event such as a heart attack, patient self-management and social supports are important tools for preventing future hospitalizations, maintaining health and returning to daily activities. Key strategies include symptom management, medication adherence, physical activity and others.

Yet, the amount of new information can be confusing and overwhelming for heart disease patients as they learn about their new disease and how to manage itMost affected are those who are socially isolated, whether from social networks or from community resources if living in more remote areas.

 

Objectives

In this research, we are testing the effects of Healing Circles on health, psychosocial and health resource-use variables in patients with CVD.

Our primary hypothesis is that individuals with CVD who participate in Healing Circles will experience improvements to their self-management ability that are significantly greater than individuals receiving usual care. We also investigate the effects of Healing Circles on health-related quality of life, self-efficacy with chronic disease management, eHealth literacy, and health-resource utilization. 

 

Methodology

For 10 weeks, patients are placed into a small online peer group or Healing Circle designed specifically for women. This is a private social network in which they can choose to remain anonymous. The participants have likely not met in real life, but share the common challenge of dealing with a heart disease diagnosis.

Within the program, members can post a status, share media, send messages and post motivational tasks for other members of the group. There is also an Ask-an-Expert feature and daily heart-healthy posts, both maintained by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Other notable features include a daily challenge for the promotion of healthy lifestyles and volunteer facilitators to help encourage and lead discussions within the groups.

 

Summary

Healing Circles is a novel program aimed towards improving self-management via peer-support. Given our real-world study design, our findings will be readily translated into practice. If the results support our hypotheses, it will indicate that Healing Circles is an effective intervention for improving self-management and reducing health care use.

 

Publications

Using Mobile-Health to Connect Women with Cardiovascular Disease and Improve Self-Management
Telemedicine and e-Health, September 2016
 

Receiving much-needed social support for heart patients is now in the palm of their hands
St. Paul's Hospital news release, February 2016