Lehigh Valley Heart Institute's top physician on the 3 biggest challenges in cardiology

Ronald Freudenberger, MD, physician-in-chief of the Lehigh Valley Heart Institute in Allentown, Pa., spoke about the big trends in cardiology as demand for outpatient services grows and new technologies emerge during a recent episode of the Becker's Healthcare cardiology podcast.

Here is an excerpt from the podcast. Click here to download the full episode.

Editor's note: This response was lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What are the top three issues that you're concerned with today?

Dr. Ronald Freudenberger: Today in the COVID-19 world, we have seen changing demands. We've seen fewer hospitalizations for cardiac issues, fewer interventions, slightly fewer cardiac surgeries, and overall national metrics have indicated that there are actually fewer emergency department visits, which have adversely affected our volumes for cardiology and heart surgery. We've seen an increased demand, paradoxically, in our outpatient services and a new world of telemedicine, which provides opportunities as well as some hurdles in executing. 

Right now, what's on most people's minds is how to deal with that change in demand and reallocating providers. Another obstacle is that many health networks have taken on hospitals in rural settings. Recruitment and retention of providers in those rural communities is very challenging. Speaking to colleagues around the country, they are experiencing similar challenges that will continue to be even more challenging as our population ages, and the needs for additional cardiac services expand, just based on the population of older people in this country.

The third part that's both exciting and challenging relates to new technologies that we've been working on, particularly in the structural heart programs. There are very interesting novel technologies that have provided a great benefit for the patients, but the high material costs have caused lots of financial changes that we need to deal with. This creates challenges in our budgeting and maintaining our margins so we can continue our mission.

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