Memorial cardiac program receives yet another accolade

Excellent care provided for patients with atrial fibrillation
Feb. 3, 2016

Memorial Hospital’s cardiovascular service line has received yet another accolade – full accreditation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care for providing excellent care to patients who have atrial fibrillation.

The accreditation, awarded after a Jan. 19 survey at Memorial, is a stamp of approval for Memorial’s processes, protocols and education for patients who have atrial fibrillation, or abnormal rhythm of the heart rate.

Dr. Brad Mikaelian, an electrophysiologist and director of arrhythmia services, said AFib is now recognized as “a major health concern that for a lot of years did not have a lot of treatment options and minimal advocacy and press.”

Wanda Dienes, cardiovascular patient care coordinator, said that in years past, “people believed that AFib was not that big of a deal. Before, we allowed patients to live with AFib; if their heart rate got too fast then we would take care of that, but we thought of it as a benign disease.’’

Research, however, has shown that patients with AFib have five times greater risk of suffering a stroke, and an increased risk for heart failure, which has moved providers to dedicate considerably more resources on care for patients with AFib.

A new, $1.7 million electrophysiology suite opens Feb. 15 at Memorial Hospital Central.

Statistics show that AFib is a serious problem in the United States. In the past 20 years, hospital admissions for AFib have increased 66 percent. Nearly 60 percent of AFib patients are readmitted within 15 months of an original hospitalization. By 2030, an estimated 12.1 million Americans will have a diagnosis of AFib.

“Even as a heart rhythm specialist,” Mikaelian said, “the biggest improvement we can make is stroke prevention.”

Memorial’s accreditation comes as the hospital prepares to open a new, $1.7 million electrophysiology suite at Memorial Hospital Central. The lab, which sports a huge monitor providing surgeons with more visualization and cutting-edge technology, is slated to open Feb. 15.

“Not only did we get this accreditation, but now we are getting a brand new lab for those patients who are critical or need more invasive treatment, such as AFib ablation,’’ said Tamera Dunseth-Rosenbaum, director of cardiovascular services, neurosciences and critical care at Memorial.

The year-long effort to achieve the three-year accreditation at Memorial included Dr. Brad Mikaelian, Dienes, Dunseth-Rosenbaum and numerous other providers, educators, nurses and staff.

“The great thing about these accreditations is not necessarily the symbol that you can promote but it’s the multi-disciplinary approach to the care of a certain, specific disease process,’’ Dunseth-Rosenbaum said. “This involves hospitalists, nursing, stroke care, HealthLink, primary care – it’s a multidisciplinary approach to care to improve outcomes.’’

During the accreditation process, surveyors reviewed how Memorial provides care for AFib patients. In reality, care for AFib patients begins well before they reach the hospital. Memorial works continuously with southern Colorado’s EMS providers, who have protocols that are guideline-driven, which ensures that quality care for patients begins long before they arrive at the hospital, Dienes said.

“That’s part of the importance of this. We are coordinating care from the first point of contact with the patient. That continues into the Emergency Department and to all the other health care providers that patients see in the hospital. We are doing more coordination in the outpatient setting to make sure that patients are getting the care that they need,” Mikaelian said.

Memorial’s Emergency Department immediately addresses AFib on a patient’s arrival and nurses from HealthLink call patients at home, after they are discharged from the hospital, to make sure they’re doing well. Nurses ask patients whether they’ve filled their prescriptions, advise those taking Warfarin of dietary recommendations, and encourage them to ask questions. HealthLink nurses help patients connect with physicians when there is a need to do so.

Memorial also has established an AFib website for providers in southern Colorado.  Debra Baker, director of Physician Relations at Memorial, distributed brochures with information about AFib treatment in Colorado Springs to primary care providers.

“Physicians can log on to the website and have access to all kinds of information,’’ Dienes said.

Memorial’s cardiovascular line has an impressive list of accomplishments. The hospital is accredited as a Chest Pain Center and is the only hospital west of the Mississippi that has four accreditations for non-invasive departments. Memorial’s echocardiogram, vascular, and nuclear labs are all accredited, as is the hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation department. The cardiovascular program is also a recipient of the Platinum Award for Get with the Guidelines program from the American Heart Association.

The Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care has invited Dr. Mikaelian and Dienes to help craft the next version of guidelines for accreditation.

“That’s a high honor, and they have asked us if they can use a lot of the order sets and HealthLink protocols in the country to acquire accreditation as well. So that was a big honor,’’ Dienes said.

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.