Non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) are increasingly used for the prevention and treatment of venous thromboembolism and for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation. NOACs do not require routine coagulation monitoring, creating a challenge to established systems for patient follow-up based on regular blood tests. Healthcare professionals (HCPs) are required to cope with a mixture of patients receiving either a vitamin K antagonist or a NOAC for the same indications, and both professionals and patients require education about the newer drugs. A European working group convened to consider the challenges facing HCPs and healthcare systems in different countries and the educational gaps that hinder optimal patient management. Group members emphasised the need for regular follow-up and noted national, regional and local variations in set-up and resources for follow-up. Practical incorporation of NOACs into healthcare systems must adapt to these differences, and practical follow-up that works in some systems may not be able to be implemented in others. The initial prescriber of a NOAC should preferably be a true anticoagulation specialist, who can provide initial patient education and coordinate the follow-up. The long-term follow-up care of patients can be managed through specialist coagulation nurses, in a dedicated anticoagulation clinic or by general practitioners trained in NOAC use. The initial prescriber should be involved in educating those who perform the follow-up. Specialist nurses require access to tools, potentially including specific software, to guide systematic patient assessment and workflow. Problem cases should be referred for specialist advice, whereas in cases for which minimal specialist attention is required, the general practitioner could take responsibility for patient follow-up. Hospital departments and anticoagulation clinics should proactively engage with all downstream HCPs (including pharmacists) to ensure their participation in patient management and reinforcement of patient education at every opportunity. Ideally, (transmural) protocols for emergency situations should be developed. Last but not least, patients should be well-informed about their condition, the treatment, possible risk scenarios, including the consequences of non-adherence to prescribed therapy, and the organisation of follow-up care.
Keywords: Anticoagulation clinic; Educational pathways; Non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulant; Patient education.