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Revamped Heart Function Clinic decreases patient visits by half

Posted Jun 17th, 2024

From left: Scott Gibson, Nurse Practitioner; Francie Davidson, Clinical Manager, Cardiology; Lisa Rotz, Nurse Practitioner; Dr. Anhar Alhussaini, Cardiologist; Dr. Adnan Hameed, Cardiology Head of Service 

Niagara Health’s Heart Function Clinic recently underwent a major revamp that has significantly improved patient care and outcomes.

The clinic, which supports patients experiencing heart failure, now operates with a team-based approach that includes a nurse practitioner supported by a cardiologist and pharmacist. This holistic approach aims to optimize patient outcomes and improve patients’ overall heart health.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the organs in the body. Some of the conditions that lead to heart failure are not reversible, such as unhealthy lifestyle habits, smoking and heavy alcohol use. However, there are established treatments to help patients manage their diagnosis.

The Heart Function Clinic serves outpatients from across Niagara diagnosed with congestive heart failure by closely monitoring their condition and managing their symptoms. The team works diligently to adjust medications, monitor lab results and provide counselling around lifestyle/dietary management.

Dr. Adnan Hameed, Cardiology Head of Service for Niagara Health says the changes have brought about significant improvements for the clinic.

“About 18 months ago, we launched a revamp to improve experiences for patients in the Heart Function Clinic,” he says. “We trialed a pharmacist the clinic and formalized the role of a cardiologist. Nurse practitioners coordinate care between health team members and the patient. We also strategized a new structured approach, prioritizing rapid medication optimization for patients.”

This new model has streamlined medication processes, ensuring patients have access to the best medications to treat their condition more quickly. In outpatient cardiology practices, it can be challenging to see patients frequently enough to rapidly adjust medications. The Heart Function Clinic provides more frequent encounters to ensure patients receive the best medication at the right dosage in the shortest and safest time frame.

“We found that the multidisciplinary approach resulted in achieving medication optimization in almost half the time,” says Dr. Hameed. “This has decreased the amount of time patients’ spend attending the clinic by half, meaning we can see patients more often and accommodate a higher volume of care needs.”

According to the American Heart Association, “treating heart failure with medication can lessen fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling.”

With lifestyle changes and proper medication treatment, patients living with heart failure can manage their conditions, leading to a full and normal life.

In the clinic, nurse practitioners work collaboratively with cardiologists to help patients manage their diagnosis. By closely monitoring their conditions and managing their symptoms, the clinic has greatly improved patient care and outcomes.

“Nurse practitioners have been a huge part of the Heart Function Clinic since its inception, quarterbacking patient care,” he says. “They are the first point of contact for patients, providing an independent assessment and crafting a care plan which is supported by the other members of the team.”

Formalizing the role of cardiologists within the program has allowed physicians to be integrated more closely into the team-based approach, allowing cardiologists to work collaboratively with the rest of the team to optimize treatment plans, monitor patients progress and make informed decisions for the best possible outcomes.

Looking towards the future growth of the clinic, Dr. Hameed hopes to expand the scope of the important work they do.
“We hope to expand our scope so that any patient with confirmed or suspected heart failure can be referred directly to the clinic,” he says. “There is evidence that heart failure patients who are optimized live longer and are less likely to have exacerbations of their disease, which translates to fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions.”

The multidisciplinary team approach implemented at the Heart Function Clinic has improved patient care and outcomes and positively impacted the entire Cardiology Program at Niagara Health.

“Colleagues feel more comfortable discharging patients with heart failure knowing that there will be expeditious follow-up and comprehensive care provided to them,” says Dr. Hameed. “By integrating expertise from multiple disciplines, we are optimizing patient outcomes and improving the overall heart health for the region.”

Niagara Health System