AIMS: To gain in-depth knowledge of patients' experiences of the consultation processes at a multidisciplinary atrial fibrillation outpatient clinic in a university hospital in Denmark.
BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia associated with morbidity and mortality if not diagnosed and treated as recommended. Patients with newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation preferably should be managed in an outpatient setting which includes medical examination, patient education and decision making on medical therapy.
DESIGN: This is a qualitative study of 14 patients newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, ranging from asymptomatic patients, to those with mild to severe symptoms; they were all referred from general practitioners.
METHODS: Data was generated in 2013-2015 using participant observation during each consultation, followed by individual interviews post-consultation.
RESULTS: Patients were referred with limited information on AF and knowledge about the management consultation procedures. The consultations were performed in a professional way by the cardiologist as well as by the nurses with an emphasis on the medical aspects of atrial fibrillation. The understanding that atrial fibrillation is not a fatal disease in itself was very important for patients. At the same time, visiting the clinic was overwhelming, information was difficult to understand, and patients found it difficult to be involved in decision-making.
CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that patients were uncertain on what AF was before as well as after their consultation. The communication was concentrated on the medical aspects of atrial fibrillation and visiting the clinic was an overwhelming experience for the patients. They had difficulty understanding what atrial fibrillation was, why they were treated with anticoagulation, and that anticoagulating was a lifelong treatment.
RELEVANCE FOR CLINICAL PRACTICE: This study demonstrates some lack of patient-centred care and an absence of tailored patient AF-related education. Furthermore, the study highlights the need for and importance of active patient involvement. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.