HeartWell's outpatient heart failure program reduces readmission, educates patients

Heart failure is a common disorder among the elderly population, and not uncommon in adults of all ages. Once diagnosed and treated, with the primary care physician kept apprised of the treatment, the patients are sent home. All too frequently, however, they return to the doctor – or the hospital – with recurrence days or weeks later.In order to combat hospital readmissions, Dr. Jonathan Fialkow, managing member of Miami-based HeartWell LLP, has established a program specifically for heart failure patients, encouraging them to come back to the office to monitor their progress.

In order to combat hospital readmissions, Dr. Jonathan Fialkow, managing member of HeartWell LLP has established a program specifically for heart failure patients, encouraging them to come back to the office to monitor their progress.

“Education and communication have a tremendous impact in keeping patients healthy,” said Dr. Fialkow.  “We find that a large percentage of heart failure patients who return should have had their medications modified, needed to be educated about their condition, or were confused about prescriptions.  This program keeps the patients informed – and calm.”

Often, an unstable and decompensated heart creates a myriad of issues, such as in the lungs.    A diuretic can resolve the problem.   But a patient who is scared and nervous, and can’t remember what the doctor has advised, may not take all the medication, and won’t recall what behavioral changes need to be made.

With the outpatient heart failure program, discharged patients come to the office to meet with a nurse practitioners who knows their case, and understands their fears – and their pathway to health.    The nurse meets with the patients, reviews their charts, optimizes the medical dosage and answers questions they may have in a calm, conversational setting.

“We want our patients to be self-aware, to understand their symptoms, to maintain a schedule of medication, and to have access to good medical care on a regular basis,” added Fialkow.

The program features one-on-one meetings with the nurse practitioner, and can last several meetings, depending on the stability of the patient.    Dr. Fialkow has noted that over the four months this program has existed at HeartWell, there is a noticeable decrease in readmissions and a clear improvement in the quality of life of heart failure patients.

“Listening and communicating are as important to heart failure patients as the medicine itself,” Fialkow concludes.