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The New Cardio Service Line

Michael Zeis, for HealthLeaders Media, March 13, 2013
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This article appears in the March 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

As healthcare leaders pay more attention to what their patients want and need, the tactics for caring for cardiology patients are changing. Those responsible for cardio service lines are placing more emphasis on patient behavior. Closely and loosely aligned partners, often practicing in the community and not in the hospital, are playing pivotal roles in expanding the patient referral base in new ways. And even though there is more emphasis on care outside the hospital, for the most part, healthcare leaders expect stability in cardio revenues and contribution margins, partly as a by-product of industry consolidation.

Shift toward prevention

Half of the Intelligence Report respondents (50%) say that prevention programs are critical parts of their cardio service lines. Wellness programs are important to nearly as many, 47%. That's today. Looking forward three years, prevention (62%) and wellness (54%) top the chart, while inpatient drops from 69% to 35%.

Laura Robertson, RN, chief executive officer of the 111-staffed-bed Banner Heart Hospital in Mesa, Ariz., explains one way her organization extends care into the community. "[We've been through] a big transformation of care. We brought in a postacute care skilled nursing facility and home care. With them we designed cardiac units in their skilled nursing facilities and [established] cardiac teams to manage patients through home care. [Now they are] more successful at assessing, understanding what to do, managing both resources and patients in the home."

Revenue stability

With a shift away from inpatient care for some services, what happens to cardio revenues? Sid Kirschner, executive vice president of Piedmont HealthCare and president and CEO of Piedmont Physicians Organization, looks at patient care in pretty broad terms. "Wherever a patient enters our system, [we] have to be able to treat that person for all of their cardio needs for the rest of their life. We could get someone who is healthy and goes to a cardiologist; as time evolves, other problems develop. Our system is designed to handle all those issues."

Piedmont's wellness programs prompt early medical encounters with the population at large, maximizing the opportunities to establish relationships with patients. Does that sound like marketing? Kirschner calls it "a mutual benefit endeavor. You want to capture the patient as early as possible in your cycle. It's a combination of preventive health benefit for the patient as well as a marketing program. So now that you have the patient, as the patient ages and has a problem, the patient is in your system."

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