Cardiology Care Questions & Answers

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why did Augusta Health develop an Interventional Cardiology Program?

This decision was all about patient quality and patient safety, particularly for heart attack victims in our community.

The most critical issue for patient care in these instances is the time it takes to open the blood vessels to restore blood flow to heart muscle after a heart attack. The development of the Augusta Health cardiology program is about assuring timely intervention right here in our community where patients can be transferred very quickly from the emergency department into the cardiac catheterization lab and the heart vessels can be opened.

For these reasons, we recruited outstanding cardiologists and developed our own 24/7 cardiac catheterization program to meet our community's needs.

Why is it so critical to have this capability at our community hospital?

It is all about saving heart muscle. National guidelines recommend a time to treatment or "door to balloon" time of less than 90 minutes. Prior to the implementation of our community based interventional program, the door-to-balloon times averaged 135 minutes. The Augusta Health cardiology catheterization program has helped us to reduce the average door to balloon time to an average of 43 minutes for our patients. These numbers are critical because every additional 10 minutes of delay increases the relative risk of death by approximately 10%. The availability of this service at Augusta Health significantly reduces this delay related risk to patients.

This is the standard of care for most community hospitals our size, recognizing the overall critical importance of timely intervention. This capability not only saves lives but makes a difference in the cardiac health of our community.

If I am treated by a cardiologist not under contract with Augusta Health,
can I still have diagnostic services at Augusta Health?

Yes. Augusta Health has the capabilities to provide diagnostic tests and care through our cardio-vascular department such as echo, stress test, holter monitoring, cardiac catheterization, pacemaker check, etc., and can communicate the results instantaneously through our advanced electronic medical information system to any physicians who are treating patients in our community. Patients in our community, regardless of who employs their physician, do not have to travel for tests and procedures done here at Augusta Health. Where a patient has their tests and procedures remains the patient's choice.

I have been treated by a cardiologist not under contract with Augusta Health;
so what happens if I have to be admitted to the hospital?

If you wish to be admitted to Augusta Health, the cardiac team at Augusta Health will provide any care and do whatever diagnostic and therapeutic procedures your condition requires. At the end of your hospitalization the cardiac team will either continue your care as an outpatient or, if you wish to continue treatment with any other cardiologist who is not under contract with Augusta Health, we will send a complete record of your hospitalization to the cardiologist of your choice.

What happens if I go to the emergency department and I want to be
referred to another hospital?

It is every patient's right to seek care where they choose, and we will honor any patient request to be transferred to the hospital of their choice. For example, if you have had tests and procedures done at Augusta Health, all of your clinical information (including all x-rays and videos of your heart catheterization, if appropriate) will be sent with you or electronically to the hospital of your choice for the continuation of your care. Augusta Health considers UVA to be an important academic health center and we are fortunate to have this academic health center for advanced services that are not offered at Augusta Health.

We continue to work collaboratively not only with UVA, but with other hospitals to assure that the best quality patient care is as coordinated as is possible. Patients in our community can be assured that our primary concern has been and will continue to be their health.

Why did Augusta Health develop an exclusive agreement with only
physicians who are contracted directly with Augusta Health?

We believe that providing a top quality community based cardiology program is critical for the health of our patients. Limiting physician participation to physicians under contract with Augusta Health is the best way to assure that all of our physician providers are working toward the same goal of keeping patients in the community for rapid, safe, and effective treatment for acute heart attack. This will allow Augusta Health to have a strong clinically viable cardiology program to address the number one cause of death in our community, and will increase the choices patients have for cardiology services.