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Physician Resource

Ensure Your Heart Attack Patients Have Everything They Need for a Successful Recovery

We now know that achieving the best long-term outcome after heart attack requires ongoing, comprehensive care. That’s why some leading medical centers, including UVA Health, have developed entire programs dedicated to heart attack recovery. The goal: to help patients navigate the many life changes required to manage their heart disease risk factors, prevent future heart problems and improve their health overall.

“UVA has always had advanced heart attack care,” says cardiologist Lawrence W. Gimple, MD, director of clinical cardiology for UVA Heart and Vascular Center. “We provide quality, rapid care from the time a patient enters the ER. If they need advanced therapies, patients don’t have to be transferred no matter what they need because we offer it at UVA all under one roof.

“Since we started it just over five years ago, the Heart Attack Recovery Clinic has allowed us to take heart attack care one step further,” Gimple adds. “We can ensure the patient transfers seamlessly from the hospital to their real lives with no gaps in care.”

Why Refer a Patient to the UVA Heart Attack Recovery Clinic

If your patient is treated at UVA for a heart attack, they will automatically be scheduled for a follow-up appointment to be seen at the Heart Attack Recovery Clinic within one week of being discharged from the hospital.  However, you may refer any patient with a qualified diagnosis. The benefits for the patient include:

1. More Control

Having a recovery road map based on the patient’s individual needs takes the guesswork out of what comes next after they leave the hospital. It empowers them to regain control after a period of helplessness and uncertainty. Having a plan in hand is a positive first step to recovery.

2. Greater Awareness

Patients have a direct line of communication to a team of care providers. They will meet with a cardiologist, exercise physiologist, pharmacist, social worker, nurse specialist and dietitian who will educate them on every aspect of their recovery, from the physical and emotional challenges to the logistical hurdles, such as insurance coverage. “Patients have lots of questions, but often they’re afraid to ask.

In the hospital, patients may not be able to process all the information they receive, so we are available to patients and families to answer questions, identify early problems and make sure there’s no confusion,” says Gimple.

3. Better Medication Management

As you know, managing multiple medications can be challenging for many patients. It may take more than one discussion with a provider to get a clear understanding of why and how these new medications prescribed after a heart attack should be taken, as well as how they may interact with other medications patients are already taking. As part of a dedicated recovery program, patients have direct access to providers who can take extra time to help adapt their medication regimen appropriately. And if cost is an issue, the heart attack recovery team often can find more affordable options.

4. Supervised Rehabilitation

Patients may have a fresh perspective and good intentions after surviving a heart attack, but some old habits can be tough to break. That’s why cardiac rehabilitation is such an important part of heart attack recovery. While cardiac rehab is optional, all patients are encouraged to make this a part of their recovery program. There’s no better way for them to regain strength and build confidence.

Patients typically begin cardiac rehabilitation two weeks after being discharged from the hospital. This six- to 12-week, supervised exercise program provides a safe, supportive environment for patients to begin or return to a fitness regimen.

The staff use heart monitors to keep tabs on a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, heart rhythm and more during exercise to safely guide them through a variety of aerobic and strength training activities based on their own individual needs and limitations. With this clinical supervision comes a sense of security; patients know what levels of activity are safe for them. Plus, they’re not alone. Cardiac rehab is a group program, and having others nearby who have had a similar experience is a motivator and a source of comfort for many patients and their families.

Of course, exercise is just one element of a heart-healthy lifestyle. So quality cardiac rehab programs offer a variety of services to help patients make better, healthier choices. This includes nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, risk factor management, stress relief and more.

“A lot of patients think they don’t need rehab – or that they can do it on their own -- but once they know everything that the program has to offer, they get inspired,” says UVA exercise physiologist Rhawny Leach.

To refer a patient to the UVA Heart Attack Recovery Clinic or UVA Cardiac Rehabilitation, call UVA Physician Direct at 800.552.3723.

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