Healing Circles

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


Healing Circles is a smartphone application developed specifically for women who have been diagnosed with heart disease. It provides them with management tools and social support as they adjust to a new lifestyle. Developed by Curatio with input from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, this application is being evaluated by the BCATPR.

 

Background

Heart disease is one of the top reasons for hospitalizations and a leading cause of death among women 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 it. On top of that, women tend to receive fewer resources and care for their heart disease management than do men. Most affected are those who are socially isolated, whether from social networks or from community resources if living in more remote areas.

 

Objectives

1) To test whether the Healing Circles mobile application will improve the social support of women with heart disease over a 10-week period of use.

2) To examine the application's effect on self-management and health-related quality of life.

3) To gain knowledge on users experience of using social networking to improve outcomes. 

 

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.

 

Anticipated Outcomes

It is anticipated that women with heart disease will benefit from the social support of the Healing Circles network of peers to help them in their recovery and health regardless of where they are.

 

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