The Cardiac College - An Online Resource for Patients to Self-manage their Cardiovascular Health

November 27, 2017

Paul Oh, MD is the Medical Director for the Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation Program and a scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. He is a leading expert on the role of exercise in rehabilitation and has received numerous awards for teaching and research and has authored many peer-reviewed papers. We caught up with Dr. Oh at AACVPR ‘17, where he is presenting the Cardiac College, an online resource with community driven educational content that helps patients better self manage their cardiovascular health.

MA: Dr. Oh, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. You are here at the 32nd Annual AACVPR conference doing a presentation on the Cardiac College. Tell us, what is Cardiac College all about?

Dr. Oh: Our vision for the patients that we work with is that they are empowered to become the best self-manager possible. Cardiac College provides patients with powerful systematic education to help them on their journey. We want patients to feel that they are the ones in charge of their own treatments, their medication and their health behaviors.

MA: Sounds like the patients become very invested. How did the idea come about and how long has the program been in development?

Dr. Oh: The creators of Cardiac College are all educators in some way, whether we have been trained formally or not. In our program in Toronto Canada we’ve been involved in patient education for many years and have spent about the last decade formalizing the program we now call Cardiac College.

MA: Why is it important to present Cardiac College here at the 32nd Annual AACVPR?

Dr. Oh: One of my goals today is to talk about how we developed the program. What the journey was like in developing a systematic evidence-based curriculum. I also want to get the message out that the Cardiac College is on the web at and it’s there for sharing. It’s open to sharing for any program, any patient; we want to build a community where we are collectively educating and empowering patients to become the best self managers that they can be.

MA: I see, so an online community of patients and programs that all contribute to the content. Does Cardiac College have an app for accessing or contributing to educational content?

Dr. Oh: At this point the content is only available on the website but the site is mobile friendly. There is a written patient guide for our program that’s available for download with 22 chapters on different aspects of CR that cover what’s going on with your heart, treatment and medications, getting active with aerobic resistance training, nutritional information on eating healthy and psychosocial health. We’ve packaged all of this together so that patients can take control of their health.

The same information is on the website if you’d like to take a look at the content in a non-linear format, patients can view videos or listen to audio. We also have an online school that we use for our home program patients in Toronto. So in short, no there is no app right now but it is on our list of developmental opportunities. We are interested in packaging the info into smaller bits that will be distributed over a 12 week period of time, so keep your eye out for that.

MA: How are patients and clinicians able interact with the website?

Dr. Oh: Our home program patients that use the web based platform use an interactive activity log where they signal what aerobic or resistance workouts that they’ve completed. The site also allows case managers to see what educational components a patient has completed and has a chat function for patients and case managers that need to talk back and forth.

MA: That’s pretty cool! So I wanted to ask about how patients can become involved in content creation. Can you elaborate on what types of contributions patients are making?

Dr. Oh: Sure, so one of the audience members this morning spoke about “co-creation”. Patients are our partners in the educational content creation process. There are patients who are members of our Patient Family Education Committee who develop our materials that populate the college project. They help decide what is needed, what topics should be included and how those topics should be prioritized and sequence. They also help with the writing, editing and review of that content and are paired with clinical and education experts so that there really is a collaborative approach.

MA: Sounds great, so what’s next for your program in 2018?

Dr. Oh: Right now we’re pretty focused on promotion but there’s always the continuous cycle of reviewing what he have and what will be needed for the next round of development. In the very near future we’ll be launching the 3rd version of the college materials. We’ve been doing a launch every year and are constantly revising and revamping the website.

We’re also very much engaged with research around the program. We have collaborations going on with a number of sites in Canada and we’ll be partnered with a number of sites around the world as we translate and adapt the program to other languages, namely translating into Punjabi and Hindu for a program in India and Portuguese for a partner in Brazil. We’ll also be launching a project early in 2018 with Spanish speaking partners in Central and South America.

All of these international partners have a similar program framework; we all agree that education is important; we all believe it’s important for patients to be able to take charge of their own health. Of course we’ll need to evaluate how effective the translations are in the way of knowledge transfer and keep track of how patient behavior and how outcomes change. Keeping track of these changes in all of these environments will be critically important.

At AACVPR this year we are looking for partners in America to join the community. We have a number of colleagues but are looking forward to making those deeper and broader. We’re also interested in the technology angle for further development.

MA: Yes, it sounds like technology will have a role to play in helping grow international Cardiac College communities. Data consolidation and communication, anywhere it can help engage CR communities and patient populations.

Dr. Oh: Yes, we’re open to any opportunities that make sense to grow our communities. We have a very poor business model in that we like to post things and share them for free. We like to encourage engagement, it’s one of our metrics for success. That engagement is important to us on a personal and programmatic level. It’s also important to our funders, they want to know that the content we have in development is receiving input from more than a single site.

MA: It makes sense, the larger the community of contributors is, the broader the body of content to pull from. It sounds like Cardiac College is well on its way to creating a strong international community of contributors, look forward to seeing it here in the USA. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Dr. Oh.

Dr. Oh: Of course, you’re welcome.

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