CHICAGO, Oct. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Recognizing heart failure as one of the most widespread and pernicious public health issues in the United States, Northwestern Memorial Hospital physicians and staff focused significant attention and resources on treating people in all stages of the disease, an effort that has the hospital ranked first in the United States for heart failure survival.
This sustained focus on diagnosis, treatment and follow-up pushed Northwestern Memorial to have the lowest inpatient mortality rate for heart failure in the country, according to data tracking by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from July 2012 through June 2015, the most recent data available.
"At the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, we decided years ago that heart failure is a disease of such prevalence and such importance that those patients deserve specialty care," said Allen Anderson, MD, medical director for the Center for Heart Failure at Northwestern Medicine's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. "We are treating all heart failure, not just a certain high risk group. Treating these patients aggressively earlier in their disease process can delay or prevent the need for more complicated therapies like heart transplants and mechanical pumps in the future."
Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, which is also part of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, ranked in the top 50 for survival rates.
The national mortality average for hospitals during that time was 12.2 percent. Northwestern Memorial Hospital had a 6.6 percent mortality rate, putting odds of survival at nearly twice the national average. Lake Forest Hospital had an 8.8 percent mortality rate, far below the national average.
Heart failure is a chronic, irreversible condition that appears when the heart can no longer pump blood properly through the body. It can worsen over time, requires regular medical management and, in the most serious cases, mechanical heart pumps known as ventricular assist devices (VADs) or heart transplants. People with a history of heart attack, high blood pressure, heart muscle diseases, coronary artery disease, diabetes, heart valve disease, heart rhythm disorders, lung disease and congenital heart defects are most at risk.
At Northwestern Memorial, Dr. Anderson and others in the heart failure program mobilized a Bridge and Transition Team, or BAT, to search out patients in the hospital with suspected heart failure to ensure follow-up with a cardiologist. Many of these patients were on general medicine floors and unaware that heart failure might be causing their labored breathing, fatigue or swelling in their legs and feet. Using sophisticated bioinformatics, machine learning and process improvement strategies, the BAT team began work to impact heart failure in a meaningful way.
"We have a team of doctors and nurses who not only use specialized technology but also go out and lay eyes on the patients, assess their needs and make sure they are getting the proper therapy in the hospital and the proper follow-up care at discharge," said Dr. Anderson, who is also a professor of cardiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine. "It's a disease-specific, patient-level approach that not only has improved the mortality rate but made an impact across the disease spectrum."
The heart failure program has focused on improving the transition for heart failure patients to outpatient, making sure they have follow-up cardiovascular care.
"Our incredible heart failure team and their tireless collective efforts have prioritized the treatment of heart failure at Northwestern Medicine, from the newly diagnosed to those with the most serious iterations of this condition," said Clyde Yancy, MD, MSc, chief of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Magerstadt Professor of Medicine at Feinberg. "While this is one marker of our effective management of heart failure, we continue to work on new discoveries in heart failure that will further improve the management of our patients with this disease."
Both Northwestern Memorial and Lake Forest Hospital are part of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, a program launched in 2005 by cardiothoracic surgeon Patrick McCarthy, MD, designed to bring world-class heart care to the Chicago area. Since then, Northwestern Memorial Hospital's heart and heart surgery program have been consistently ranked the top heart care program in Chicago, Illinois and the surrounding states. For the past two years, US News & World Report ranked the program in the top 10 nationally, with cardiology and cardiac surgery now ranked 6th in the country.
To learn more about cardiovascular care at Northwestern Medicine, visit heart.nm.org or call (312) NM-HEART.
For more information about Northwestern Medicine, visit news.nm.org/about-northwestern-medicine.html.
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SOURCE Northwestern Medicine