With so many treatment options available for cardiovascular conditions, it’s often hard for patients – and sometimes even caregivers – to decide on the approach that best fits.
That’s one of the reasons Baylor Scott & White Health has reorganized how cardiovascular care is delivered at its facilities. The goal is to put every patient with a cardiovascular condition on their right path to healing.
Michael J. Mack, MD, FACC, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services for Baylor Scott & White Health, recently sat down to discuss the changes and what they mean for patients.
Why was reorganizing Baylor Scott & White Health’s cardiovascular services so important?
We wanted to move away from a fragmented system of care to a more integrated, uniform system for cardiovascular disease. The example I like to use is that under the previous model, the treatment a patient received would often depend on which door of the hospital they happened to walk through or which doctor’s office they chose.
So, if a patient walked into a general cardiologist’s office, the treatment they would receive may differ than if they went to an interventional cardiologist’s or cardiothoracic surgeon’s office.
We really believed that there should be a more uniform approach — a team approach — and that the best treatment option for a patient should be something we as a care team can all agree upon in 90 or 95 percent of cases.
What do you mean by a team approach?
The whole patient encounter takes place in a different manner. It’s no longer a one-on-one meeting between a patient and a physician. The appointment takes place in a specialty clinic, where the patient is seen by a heart team. A surgeon and cardiologist see the patient together, along with other caregivers.
When a variety of providers see the patient together, the patient is more educated and better understands the benefits and limitations of potential treatment plans. The team approach is about patient-centered, shared decision-making.
Which patients are going to benefit most from this team approach?
The team approach is most beneficial to patients suffering from complex heart conditions, such as heart valve disease, congestive heart failure and complex coronary artery disease. Also, patients with atrial fibrillation — the most common type of irregular heartbeat — are going to benefit.
Are these clinics now available at every Baylor Scott & White Health hospital?
Not necessarily. Keep in mind that not every cardiovascular patient needs to be seen by multiple specialists in a clinic. Some have a very simple, straight-forward problem. It doesn’t require all the different providers examining them.
But in patients with more complex cases — no matter which of our hospitals they come to — they can be steered to one of these clinics where they are seen by multiple specialists who can put their heads together and come up with the right treatment approach.
Does this reorganization affect patients who are brought to the hospital Emergency Department because of a cardiac event like a heart attack?
The actual patient encounter in the emergency department might not be different. However, behind the scenes, there is a more integrated approach to care delivery. There are diagnosis and treatment guidelines in place that caregivers at all our hospitals follow that we all agree are the best approaches for a patient experiencing a heart attack. The care experience shouldn’t vary a lot based on what physician a patient sees or which emergency department they come to.
One of the reasons we reorganized is because regardless of the cardiovascular condition they have or the Baylor Scott & White Health facility they come to, patients can expect quality, evidence-based care that will hopefully lead to a great outcome.