Recipe for a "Win-Win-Win-Win" Outcome: Preventive Services and Personal Communication

Among the many challenges hospitals and health systems face today are aligning with physicians and managing population health. Lafayette (La.) General Medical Center found a successful strategy in monthly Heart Fairs that provide free electrocardiography screenings to patients and a connection to primary care physicians and cardiologists.

New cardiologists in town
LGMC partnered with the cardiology practice Cardiovascular Institute of the South in April 2011. The practice opened a clinic near the hospital and began managing the hospital's catheterization labs. To introduce the practice to the community, strengthen the partnership with the cardiologists and build relationships with potential referral sources, the hospital decided to launch a free heart screening program called Pocket EKG.

Patients receive Pocket EKG Cards with their EKG reading.Managing population health
Under the EKG program, the hospital hosts monthly Heart Fairs that provide free EKG readings for patients. The hospital held its first Heart Fair in February 2012. The cardiologist partners immediately read the EKG. If the EKG is abnormal, the cardiologists discuss options with the patient, including making an appointment with a specialist or primary care physician, depending on the urgency of the patient's condition.

"It's amazing how many people do not have a cardiologist and never check their heart.  By providing Heart Fairs free to the public, we are bettering the health of our community," says Daryl Cetnar, LGMC director of community relations and development.

Each patient receives a wallet-sized Pocket EKG Card with his or her baseline EKG reading, cardiac history and contact information for the hospital, cardiologists and primary care physicians. In addition, patients receive a free one-month membership to the hospital's Wellness Center.

As of Nov. 15, the program had performed 558 free screenings, of which 128 had an abnormal EKG reading. Seventy-nine  (62 percent) of the patients with abnormal EKGs did not have a cardiologist and several made an immediate follow-up appointment for further testing with a cardiologist affiliated with LGMC.

"The most important aspect of this program is that Lafayette General is providing a valuable community service," Mr. Cetnar says. "The program has already saved a man's life, as his abnormal EKG led to triple bypass surgery less than two weeks later."

Aligning with physicians
This program facilitates alignment between the hospital, cardiology practice and primary care physicians. Before LGMC began the program, it sent letters to primary care physicians in the community letting them know of the new service.

During the program, the hospital and cardiologists work together to provide technicians and EKG machines. The collaboration of hospital staff and the cardiology partners helps the two groups form closer ties.

In addition, after a patient receives an EKG screening, an LGMC representative sends a letter to the primary care physician and cardiologist of patients who have an abnormal EKG reading. The employee has an opportunity to interact with the primary care physicians and cardiologists about the program and provides them with a copy of the patient's EKG and a fact sheet on the hospital's cath lab. The LGMC representative also provides the primary care physicians with biographies of the LGMC-partnered cardiologists, their contact information and information about scheduling appointments.

Charlotte Beadles, who served as physician relations specialist at LGMC when the program began and is now director of sales and marketing at Kindred Hospital Lafayette (La.), took responsibility for meeting with primary care physicians. She hand-delivered the letters to engage with the physicians one-on-one.

"It was another way for me to get in front of that physician and engage [him or her] in a conversation," Ms. Beadles says. "It was a way for us to get information about our cath lab and cardiology group in the hands of the physicians who are a referral source." She said the process of speaking personally with primary care physicians and providing this information also helped build loyalty with the hospital because the hospital was providing a valuable service to patients free of charge.

"It was a win-win-win-win all the way around, not only for the community, but for the cardiology group and for the hospital and for the primary care physicians," Ms. Beadles says.

More Articles on Hospital Cardiology:

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St. Clair Hospital Acquires South Hills Cardiology Associates

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