Living Well: Building More Options For Heart Care
How do you treat heart patients who need more advanced care? You build a system of care that better meets their needs.
In this case, I’m not talking about constructing a physical building. Rather, I’m talking about changing the way in which we deliver heart care, and also growing the capabilities that exist locally to treat wider range of patients. At Owensboro Health, we call this the Structural Heart Program, and the goal is to provide more options for the sickest of heart patients.
Changing Needs, Changing Care
The top cause of death in the United States is heart disease. We also have an aging population, which increases risk when using traditional therapies, like surgery, for structural heart and valvular disease. This has led to new technologies in minimally invasive therapy.
As a result, interventional cardiologists are seeing larger numbers of patients who are older, sicker, and who have problems that can only be treated through these minimally invasive therapies. In the worst cases, these individuals cannot undergo surgery because their health problems are too severe. Structural heart care was developed to give these patients an option for treatment where they otherwise would be untreatable.
As A Team
A team approach is rapidly becoming the standard in healthcare, and heart care is no exception. It’s most certainly the case in the Structural Heart Program at Owensboro Health, which was created last year as a best practice in patient-centered care. In this program, Interventional cardiologists, general cardiologists, heart surgeons, diagnostic radiologists, nurses and many others are working together for the benefit of patients.
This team approach allows us to use catheter-based treatments, which are less invasive than surgery. Using a catheter device inserted into a blood vessel (usually the femoral artery or femoral vein near the groin), we can gain access to the heart without a major surgery. One example is treating patients with severe aortic valve narrowing by replacing the aortic valve. This procedure is called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). We can also repair the mitral valve when there is severe leaking, which is called mitral regurgitation, using a clip device on the valve. We can also close congenital defects in the heart, such as Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) in patients who have suffered from a stroke.
Why do we involve so many different experts? Good heart care depends on nurses, from taking a patient’s vital signs on the first visit to the catheterization lab where we do these advanced procedures. General cardiologists and radiologists are the experts at detecting and diagnosing structural heart problems. The expertise of heart surgeons is vital because they know when surgery may not be the best option for a patient. Put all of us into a room together, and we will work to find the best option for our patients.
Keeping Loved Ones Close
Good heart care is a necessity in this region. The population is not just aging, but also has rates of obesity, smoking and diabetes that are well above the rest of the country. That means there are more people here who need this kind of care now or will need it in the future.
Traveling for care is not an option for many of these patients. If someone is not healthy enough to undergo a major heart surgery, that usually means they are unable to travel for care. And even if they could travel for care, how many could afford to do so?
Having this program locally removes barriers that would keep people from getting the care they need. It also means they are close to the people who can support them as they receive care. At the same time that healthcare providers are working together to help patients, loved ones can help also.
I’m looking forward to the future of the Structural Heart Program as we continue to help it build and grow. We want to help people live longer and live happier lives. That’s a goal that we’re willing to work toward, and a team that can make it a reality.
Dr. Abdelkader Almanfi is a board-certified interventional cardiologist with Owensboro Health’s One Health medical group. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a One Health provider, call 844-44-MY-ONE (844-446-9663).