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Sarasota Memorial helping heart failure patients live longer, better lives

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Apr/19/2011

SMH had lowest (best) readmission rate in Florida and ranked in top 10 nationwide, according to a recent federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) study.

Heart failure ... the very name is enough to trigger anxious flutters in anyone diagnosed with a failing heart.

But, though it can be deadly, the condition needn’t be as dire as it sounds.

Also known as congestive heart failure (CHF), heart failure doesn’t mean the heart is no longer working. It simply means the heart is not pumping as well as it should be. And, as hundreds of Sarasota Memorial heart failure patients can attest, it doesn’t mean that nothing more can be done.

Common Heart Failure Symptoms

  • Shortness of breath, coughing and swelling of the feet, ankles, leg or abdomen (generally caused by poor circulation and fluid build-up in tissue and lungs);
  • Fatigue, lack of appetite and nausea (caused when the body diverts blood from less critical organs to the heart and brain
  • Confusion (often caused by changing levels of sodium in the blood)
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations (when the heart beats faster to compensate for loss in function).

“When treated and educated properly, people with heart failure can lead full, enjoyable lives,” said Sarasota Cardiologist Edmund Bermudez, MD, medical director of Sarasota Memorial’s Heart Failure Center. “The key is helping them better understand the condition and how to recognize and respond to warning signs.”

Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization among seniors, and one of the more complex conditions to manage. Studies show one in four wind up back in the hospital within 30 days of discharge.

With a few simple outreach strategies, however, Sarasota Memorial is reversing that trend. The hospital has assembled a multidisciplinary team and network of outpatient services that are helping heart failure patients live longer, better lives – and preventing life threatening relapses that send so many others to the emergency room.

In 2010, Sarasota Memorial had the very best (lowest) heart failure readmission rate in Florida and ranked among the 10 best hospitals nationwide, according to a study of 4,000 hospitals by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We’re not doing anything revolutionary – it’s really just a common sense approach to managing a chronic disease,” said Mike Blanchette, ARNP, who follows about 500 patients at the hospital’s outpatient Heart Failure Center.

“We realize that different people require different levels of service. Some of our patients need more nutrition counseling, while others may need more education about medications or help structuring a safe exercise plan. So we’ve developed a continuum of care that ensures all their issues are addressed – in a process that is seamless and results in better outcomes.”

The outpatient network provides a range of clinical services based on individual needs – from customized cardiac rehabilitation, nutrition counseling and specialized cardiac home care nurses to an anti-coagulation clinic and the hospital’s cornerstone Heart Failure Center, where nurse practitioners are available for consults 24 hours a day.

To Robert Trout, 77, who suffered a heart attack at age 44, underwent heart surgery 10 years later, and has been living with congestive heart failure the past 10 years, Sarasota Memorial’s Heart Failure Center has been a lifeline.

“If it wasn’t for their advice and guidance, I don’t think I’d be here today,” Trout said. “ It’s a tricky thing balancing all your medications and vitals ... But they’re always there to intervene and help me get back on track before I get into an emergency situation.”

Learn More
Call Sarasota Memorial’s HealthLine at 917-7777 or view our “Living Well with Heart Failure” video on Sarasota Memorial’s YouTube education channel at: youtube.com/smhcs

Media Contact:
Kim Savage, 941-917-6271

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