Sanford Health heart failure clinics could very easily be renamed heart success clinics based on the way medical attention has helped improve life for those who have sought care.
People like Dr. Sundermurthy Yamini, who specializes in cardiology at Sanford Heart Bismarck, can speak to how important it is. The numbers compiled on the topic definitely support the case for the benefits of local expertise and attention.
One measure in support of Sanford heart clinics’ efforts is the number of re-admissions for heart failure over a span of 30 days.
In the first three months of 2019, Bismarck had a 25% re-admission rate for heart failure, Dr. Yamini said. In November of 2019, she and her colleagues began taking part of in a heart failure program that addressed inpatient care. The re-admission rate over 30-day time spans fell to zero by August of 2020.
You can’t do much better than that.
“We’ve come a long ways,” Dr. Yamini said. “The participation of cardiologists has definitely made a difference on the inpatient side of heart failure.”
Heart failure defined
The American Heart Association explains heart failure like this: “A chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. Basically, the heart can’t keep up with its workload.”
It is important to realize it takes on many forms, but that’s the essential challenge for cardiologists entrusted with care of patients dealing with heart failure.
“Heart failure is a chronic medical problem,” said Dr. Orvar Jonsson, director of the Heart Failure Clinic at Sanford Heart Hospital. “It’s the most common medical condition to cause hospitalization in people 65-and-over. It’s incurable but treatable. About one in four people, based on national averages, will be back in the hospital within a month. So the goal is to provide more consistent care and easier access for patients when they’re having issues.”
Dr. Jonsson and fellow Sanford cardiologists combat the prevalence of returns to the hospital with communication with their heart patients. This communication includes a robust outreach system where he sees patients in person in smaller communities within the Sanford footprint.
Access to the latest technology can play a significant role in remaining healthy, as well. As such, a good clinic is a well-equipped clinic. To that end, cardiologists and their patients have access to real-time monitoring at home.
This can include use of a Telescale, a monitoring system that sends daily weight readings to a Sanford Health heart failure team. It can also include a CardioMEMs heart monitoring device that is implanted and allows the care team to quickly adjust medications and treatments that can reduction hospital admissions.
When patients are diagnosed with heart failure, it can be a difficult time for obvious reasons. It does not have to be an untreatable disease, however. Above all, there are things patients can do, with help from their providers, that can make the condition more manageable.
“It can be a big psychological drawback to hear you’re suffering from heart failure,” Dr. Yamini said. “We tell them that basically, the heart is not able to do its job correctly. There’s not a cure, but we can control this. We go over with each patient that lifestyle is the biggest challenge in treatment.”
In short, there are most often things you can do to help yourself. That applies to what happens after a diagnosis, but even more important, it applies to the months and years prior to reaching the point where you’re suffering from heart disease.
“Some people have a genetic predisposition to heart failure,” Dr. Yamini said. “But there is a lot you can do for your heart health that will tremendously affect your chances of developing or preventing heart failure in the future. If you control your blood pressure, if you exercise daily, if you keep your diet balanced, if you control diabetes and keep the cholesterol in check, there’s less chance you’ll develop heart failure later on.”
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