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Published on February 24, 2014

Karen_Miele

Saint Mary’s Hospital Among the First in the Country to Participate in American College of Cardiology’s Patient Navigator Program

WATERBURY, Conn. (February 24, 2014) ─ Representatives of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) in Washington, DC, attended “Matters of the Heart,” an event held February 24th to celebrate Saint Mary’s selection as one of 11 hospitals in the country—and the only one in the Northeast—to participate in the ACC’s Patient Navigator Program. This is the first program of its kind in cardiology designed to support hospitals in providing personalized services to heart disease patients and help them avoid future hospital readmissions.

Patient Navigator“The American College of Cardiology, which is one of the governing bodies for cardiology in the country, was soliciting ideas for programs from hospitals across the country. They received more than 130 applications, including one from Saint Mary’s. We were among the 11 hospitals selected along with UCLA Medical Center and Vanderbilt University,” said Dr. Paul Kelly, cardiologist and Director, Cardiac Quality at Saint Mary’s Hospital.

Saint Mary’s has a proven track record in the area of cardiac quality. In 2009, Saint Mary’s was the first hospital in Connecticut to receive a Gold Award for cardiac care under the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines program. Since then, Saint Mary’s has been honored with four additional Gold Awards for cardiac care from the American Heart Association and two Gold Awards from the American Stroke Association. In 2013, Saint Mary’s also one was one of 32 hospitals nationwide to receive the American College of Cardiology Foundation’s ACTION Registry—Get With The Guidelines Gold Award for outstanding care of heart attack patients.

“Healthcare is changing dramatically and as hospitals, we need to change along with it,” said Chad W. Wable, President and Chief Executive Officer, Saint Mary’s Health System. “Our involvement in the ACC’s Patient Navigator Program provides us with an opportunity to build on our early success. Through this program, we will be able to make sure patients receive the care they need and extend care beyond the walls of the hospital.”

Nearly one in five patients hospitalized with heart attack and one in four patients hospitalized with heart failure are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, often for conditions seemingly unrelated to the original diagnosis. Readmissions can be related to issues like stresses within the hospital, fragility on discharge, lack of understanding of discharge instructions and inability to carry out discharge instructions.

Nationally, there is a push to provide support for patients up to 30 days after discharge, but Dr. Kelly would like to see that expanded to 60 to 90 days, and beyond.

“With this program, we are being asked to come up with some new and creative ways to take care of patients after they leave the hospital. Some of that may involve tele-monitoring and new technology. But ultimately, it comes down to the navigator, a person working one-to-one and face-to-face to take care of issues from language barriers and lack of transportation to making house visits. With the navigator program, there’s going to be a thread of continuity from inpatient to outpatient, a familiar voice, a familiar face, someone who can utilize resources that are already available out in the community, to take care of patients post-discharge.”

At the event, Dr. Kelly demonstrated how EMS personnel can visit a patient at home and transmit critical information to the cardiologist, including an EKG, heart rate, blood pressure and weight, via email. If the patient is unable to get to the doctor, a house call can also be conducted via Skype, which Dr. Kelly demonstrated with the help of a patient in Southbury.

The ACC created the Patient Navigator Program to support a team of caregivers at selected hospitals to help patients overcome challenges during their hospital stay and in the weeks following discharge when they are most vulnerable. Hospitals chosen were given funding to establish a program that supports a culture of patient-centered care that can be implemented in other hospitals in the future. AstraZeneca is the founding sponsor of the ACC Patient Navigator Program.

“The ACC Patient Navigator Program will serve as a test for innovative, patient-centered solutions to address issues that impact patient health and patient readmissions,” said ACC President John G. Harold, MD, MACC. “Saint Mary’s Hospital is a pioneer in a new approach to heart disease treatment and care that puts emphasis on a team approach to meeting patients’ ongoing needs and helping patients make a seamless transition from the hospital to the home.”

By the end of 2015, the ACC will enroll at least 35 hospitals in the Patient Navigator Program.

To learn more about Saint Mary's Cardiac services, visit the Cardiac page. 

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