New Heart Attack Recovery Clinic Aims to Reduce Readmissions

The hospital readmission rate for patients who suffer acute myocardial infarction (MI) is approximately 18 percent nationwide. With the establishment of a new Heart Attack Recovery Clinic, UVA Health System aims to significantly reduce their readmission rates by providing heart attack patients additional tools and a personalized plan for recovery within the first week after hospital discharge.

This includes making patients more aware of how to appropriately respond to symptoms that may arise, specifically when to contact their physician and when to return to the hospital. The clinic’s multidisciplinary team — a cardiologist, pharmacist, dietitian and exercise physiologists — will also educate patients about the medications they’ve been prescribed, initiate a smoking cessation plan if necessary, provide tips on healthy eating, establish an exercise regimen and, if possible, refer them to a cardiac rehabilitation program for ongoing risk factor management.

According to UVA cardiologist Ellen Keeley, MD, MS, the most significant benefit thus far of these early follow-up appointments, has been the ability to review with each patient the medications prescribed to them. “Understanding the importance of compliance with newly prescribed medications and adapting to changes in the dose or frequency of medications they are already taking is crucial for patients who have had a heart attack,” says Keeley. “For example, stopping aspirin or other antiplatelet medications too soon or taking them incorrectly could set them up for a recurrent heart attack. Cost is also a big problem. Patients don’t realize how expensive some of the medications are until they get home. When we see that cost may be a barrier for them to take their medications, we work to find them more affordable options. Reviewing the medications, explaining why they’re important and how best to take them is proving effective. It’s been the biggest positive outcome of this effort so far.”

Within a week of being discharged from the hospital, heart attack patients treated at UVA will now be scheduled for a follow-up appointment at the Heart Attack Recovery Clinic. Information about each patient, including the treatment received and any repeat hospitalizations, will be recorded over the next year. This data collection will give UVA’s heart team a measure of their success in terms of reducing readmissions after MI, and will provide a snapshot of the factors that contribute to heart patients’ hospital readmissions.

After each patient’s visit, the Heart Attack Recovery Clinic team will create a summary of his or her hospitalization along with a recommended plan for recovery, which will be shared with the patient’s cardiologist and/or primary care provider.

The Heart Attack Recovery Clinic team includes:

Cardiologist Ellen Keeley, MD, MS
Pharmacist Svetlana Goldman, PharmD
Dietitian Katherine Basbaum, MS, RD
Exercise physiologist Courtney Connors, MS
Exercise physiologist Michelle Adams, MEd

For more information about UVA Heart Attack Recovery Clinic, call 434.243.1000.