Kris Wittersheim of Emory University Hospital on I Decide: LVAD

Emory University Hospital has been using the I Decide: LVAD decision aid for more than two years. Kris Wittersheim, MSN, RN, ANP-BC, Ventricular Assist Device Coordinator, Heart Transplant Services, Emory University Hospital, has been critical to implementing the tool and integrating it into Emory’s practice.

Since implementation, the I Decide: LVAD decision aid has become a core element of patient education. Each patient and his or her family can view the video via iPads or the hospital’s in-house patient education channel. The video is scheduled three times per day, and showtimes are outlined on cardiac patients’ in-room whiteboard. This has proven to be immensely helpful for patients, especially those without smartphones or internet access, says Wittersheim. “It’s easy to incorporate into workflow,” she notes. “It’s all put together in one place, so we can give it to patients at the beginning [of our education process]”.

With more than 10 years of experience as a heart transplant coordinator and manager, Wittersheim has a great appreciation for how I Decide: LVAD tool is organized, making the patient education process concise and efficient. She admires its ability to communicate information succinctly in a way the patient understands.

“I really like how simply it is laid out and answers all the questions I have previously tried to find that were buried in a 10-page document,” she says. And she’s not alone. “I’ve gotten nothing but support [for this tool].”

Wittersheim also appreciates that the I Decide: LVAD video provides another opportunity for patients to learn and understand the information, regardless of their learning style. By watching the I Decide: LVAD video, it’s easier for patients to see the LVAD device, understand its use, and ask deeper and more personal questions when communicating with their doctor.

If clinicians are unsure about incorporating the I Decide: LVAD into their practice, she says, “I would encourage them to consider it. It is yet another tool to inform the patient. People learn in different ways, so presenting things to them aurally, visually, and hands-on increases their chance of grasping the concepts.

“When answering questions or describing LVAD to patients, I often say, ‘remember in the video.’ It is another reference point,” she notes.

I Decide: LVAD not only educates patients, but also answers family members’ important questions and concerns. “When we can get family to watch it together,” she says, “It is really helpful for both family member and the patient. It helps them get the same understanding of what this journey might be.”

According to patient satisfaction surveys provided by Emory University Hospital, an overwhelming number of patients engage with this tool and say they find it very helpful to their decision-making. To learn about an LVAD procedure, patients often search for an additional perspective from a physician or a prior LVAD patient. The I Decide: LVAD decision aid video provides this perspective in an efficient and low-risk way.

“These are real physicians [who have created the I Decide: LVAD tool] , equivalent to our medical director and staff. Patients understand this isn’t coming from industry—these are not actors or vested parties,” Wittersheim says. “We can’t always introduce a new patient to an LVAD patient, so this is a really good way to hear from people who have been in a similar situation.”

The I Decide: Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) shared decision-making tool developed by Dr. Dan Matlock and the Colorado Program for Patient Centered Decisions provides patients with simple, concise knowledge and instructions and has been proven to help patients decide whether an LVAD is right for them. The toolkit includes a printed booklet of information, as well as a video featuring first-hand patient stories. To receive free I Decide: LVAD materials for your clinic, email us: