In the winter of 2007, a few days before she was scheduled to leave for a conference in Seattle (WA), Dr. Claudia Gollop, Frances Carroll McColl Term Professor, had an appointment with her physician during which she mentioned a small, dull pain in her back. It was the startling results of her visit that changed her life and sent her on a trajectory to new-found information about her heart, better health and a new research project about the importance of Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) following a cardiac event.
Gollop was fortunate to have a doctor who understood the signs of heart problems in women, whose symptoms are not always the classic pain in the left arm and chest area men often experience during a heart attack. An echo cardiogram (EKG) was performed in the doctor’s office before Gollop was sent to the hospital for more tests. After further observation and a struggle to gain clear and adequate information about her condition, it was strongly recommended that Gollop undergo angioplasty to open a blocked artery.
Needless to say, Gollop never made it to Seattle, but fortunately, she did have the procedure and made a full recovery which included a CR program. After this event, however, she remained curious, even disturbed about when and how she was given information that could have helped her decision-making process.
While Gollop quickly learned how fortunate she had been to see her doctor who initially suspected her heart problem and who recognized the uncommon symptoms, she also was soon to learn about the importance of cardiac rehabilitation for her complete recovery.
Even though cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States and CR has more than five decades of proven positive outcomes as a method of helping to prevent further heart problems and improve the quality of life, in many instances, CR referrals have yet to become a standardized procedure.
Gollop actively pursued her own cardiac rehabilitation recovery by joining the University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospital Wellness Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, but notes that others may not receive the appropriate referrals as they leave hospitals. In fact, Gollop was not formally referred or prescribed cardiac rehabilitation, a fact which eventually led her to investigate issues related to CR referral. This lack of information is a topic in which Gollop holds great passion.
With the help of an Eleanor and Frederick G. Kilgour Research grant, she is conducting a research study about cardiac rehabilitation referral.
Her project, “Closing the Information Gap in Cardiac Rehabilitation for Women,” seeks to address this problem and targets cardiac rehabilitation referral practices, particularly as they may impact the heart health of women.
“What appears to be ‘a missing link’ in the cardiac rehabilitation enterprise is a comprehensive information delivery system designed to help healthcare providers disseminate cardiac rehabilitation referrals as patients are discharged,” said Gollop. So far, “we have conducted two focus groups made up of participants recruited through a health-related facility in the North Carolina Triangle area,” she added.
Not surprisingly, one preliminary finding indicates that there was little consistency in the methods of CR referral among participants. Another angle of interest is to include subjects who have not participated in a cardiac rehabilitation program, but may have been eligible to do so, with a closer look at any possible related information issues involved. Two more focus groups will be conducted at different locations in the near future.
Gollop and Ph.D. students, Wan-Ching Wu and Annie Chen are analyzing the data collected thus far and plan to develop a grant proposal for further examination of the protocols for CR referral and the roles information dissemination plays in the heart health of women and men. The aim for a larger study will be to investigate the protocols for cardiac rehabilitation referral practices and technologies that may be used to enhance the process of referral/enrollment rates among various demographic strata.
Dr. Gollop specializes in consumer health information, health sciences librarianship and information and diverse user groups. In addition to her current research on CR referral information, Gollop is passionate about the public’s access to health information. As a member of the UNC Wellness Center, Gollop continues to practice lessons learned during her stint in CR. She is also active in the American Heart Association and participates in the annual Heart Walk to raise awareness and funds. This year (2012) marks her sixth year with the Triangle Heart Walk.
What is Cardiac Rehabilitation?
Cardiac rehabilitation (CR), which usually takes place over a twelve week period, is designed to help survivors of cardiovascular episodes improve the quality of their lives by improving the health of their hearts and is defined as:
Cardiac rehabilitation services are comprehensive, long-term programs involving medical evaluation, prescribed exercise, cardiac risk factor modification, education and counseling. These programs are designed to limit physiologic and psychological effects of cardiac illness, reduce the risk for sudden death or re-infarction, control cardiac symptoms, stabilize or reverse the atherosclerotic process, and enhance the psychosocial and vocational status of selected patients. (Thomas, et al., 2007, p. 264)