The heart specialists at Northern Arizona Healthcare have moved into their new and improved space with plans to better serve patients throughout the region. The 11,000-square-foot Heart and Vascular Center of Northern Arizona (HVCNA) is located on the second floor of Flagstaff Medical Center’s west campus.
HVCNA is a partnership between Flagstaff Medical Center and the Verde Valley Medical Center, with offices in Winslow, Sedona, Camp Verde Cottonwood. Over the past several years, the center has attracted additional surgeons and cardiologists, each helping to expand services by offering different backgrounds and specialties. With heart disease maintaining its ranking as the number one killer in the United States, many Northern Arizonans have welcomed the increased services to the region.
During a recent open house highlighting the new facility, Dr. Eric Cohen shared his enthusiasm for bringing increased life-saving opportunities to Northern Arizona. “We’re creating a program designed to rapidly treat acute myocardial infraction, major myocardial infarction,” explained Cohen. Statistics show that so-called STEMI (St-segment elevation myocardial infarction) patients benefit from immediate treatment. “We learned in the 1990s to 2000s that the thing you wanted to do with a heart attack is stop it by opening blocked arteries in the Cath lab and restoring blood flow to heart muscle. And we learned that if you could do it expeditiously, typically 60-90 minutes from presentation to fix, you could take the mortality rate for heart attack to roughly 40 percent (as it was in the 1980s and ‘90s) to below 14 percent. This program does that,” Cohen said.
Dr. Cohen is an interventional cardiologist and the medical director of peripheral vascular intervention at the HVCNA. He seems optimistic about improved outcomes with additional services for Native Americans.
“Basically, one of our major constituencies is the far flung communities of Northern Arizona, from Navajo to Hopi to Shiprock, Window Rock and so forth,” said Cohen, referring to the vast Native American communities in the northern half of the state. When patients travel more than 200 miles to FMC, they can be seen by a physician, have necessary diagnostic procedures (including Echocardiograms, ultrasound, and stress tests,) and reconvene with the physician to immediately put a plan in place.
HVCNA has created a network similar to a trauma network to help people who are hours from an intervention facility. “A patient goes into their local ER, they are given medications designed to begin to treat the heart attack,” explained Dr. Cohen. Air transport is arranged and activated. “If the medicines they’ve received have stopped the heart attack, then you plan elective intervention,” he added, saying that works for about 60 percent of people. For the 40 percent whose heart attacks are evolving, they are taken straight to the catheterization laboratory for treatment.
These HVCNA developments for serving outlying communities are part of the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline.
Dr. Alice Jacobs is former president of the American Heart Association and a key volunteer with Mission Lifeline. She told Flagstaff Business News that the focus of Mission: Lifeline is to increase the number of STEMI patients who have timely access to intervention. Guidelines provide recommendations for treatments and intervention procedures, including patients being transported from remote areas. “By bringing together the constituents and system components involved in the delivery of care to STEMI patients, and with the use of Mission: Lifeline standardized protocols, treatment algorithms, toolkits, checklists, and comprehensive feedback and quality assurance, Mission: Lifeline has the potential to provide optimal care to all STEMI patients including those residing in rural communities and on Indian reservations,” said Dr. Jacobs.
Improvements in care mean many heart attack patients spend just a day or two in the hospital, instead of the longer hospital stays of the past.
When patients are on the mend, HVCNA facilitates outpatient procedures. Nurse Practitioner Leaf Edmondson manages discharge planning and continuity of care of patients. She has been joined by Wendy Hulett, a registered nurse who recently moved to Flagstaff from the Dakotas. She will facilitate the return of Native American patients to caregivers in their communities, communicating post procedural regimens and providing records and discharge summaries to the other practitioners.
FMC President Bill Bradel says it is all about better serving patients. “Our goal is to appropriately take care of patients so they don’t have to go to the U of A and Phoenix. Especially for the Native American culture, they want their family members taken care of as close as possible, and right now they’re going long distances.” Bradel says the HVCNA is continually working to enhance services to patients with cardiology concerns. FBN