Elgin's Advocate Sherman Hospital is the only hospital in Illinois chosen to kick off a new program that aims to prevent heart patients from being rehospitalized within 30 days of discharge, as so often happens.
Sherman is among 15 U.S. hospitals selected so far for the American College of Cardiology's patient navigator program, Nicole Wilson, ACC director of corporate relations, said last week at the hospital's kickoff event Friday.
Altogether, 35 hospitals will be selected by the end of 2015, Wilson said. About 300 hospitals nationwide applied for the program.
Nearly one in five heart attack patients and one in four heart failure patients are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, according to ACC statistics. Causes can include stresses related to hospital stays, and patients not understanding, or not being able to carry out, their discharge instructions.
Sherman was selected for the program thanks to the results of its Heart Failure Recovery Center, where the re-admission rate is less than 1 percent, said Dr. Azmey A. Matarieh, Sherman's medical director of acute myocardial infarction. Any patient with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure qualifies for the center.
Sherman's overall re-admission rate for heart failure patients is 19.5 percent, he added.
The patient navigator program includes a $20,000 quarterly grant for two years, covering the salary of a new nurse navigator, along with educational webinars and more, Matarieh said. The nurse navigator will provide personalized care to patients both during their hospital stay and after discharge, he explained.
"This gives us more tools and resources to expand on what we've been doing (at the Heart Failure Recovery Center)," Matarieh said.
Patient Anthony Romano, 71, of Huntley said he's loved the personalized care offered by the Heart Failure Recovery Center. Romano has had two heart attacks and two open heart surgeries since 1984, and most recently a cardiac ablation procedure to address heart rhythm problems.
The center's staff members have helped him monitor his diet and fluid intake, and stick to a regular exercise program, he said.
It's also the first place he goes whenever he feels any potentially worrisome symptoms like heavy breathing, he added.
"They know me so well with my heart," he said. "They're so nice to me. They figure out my problems, and they fix it there."
The navigator program can only be a huge plus because more people will get the kind of care he's received, Romano said.
"I have nothing bad to say about them," he said. "Instead of being so sophisticated, they talk to you like a human being."
Heart-related conditions are the No. 1 admitting diagnoses in the country, said Dr. Raminder P. Singh, Sherman's medical director of congestive heart failure.
However, while heart attacks and acute coronary problems used to be the most common reasons, in the last 10 years that has shifted to chronic heart failure, Singh said.
"People now live longer with the scars of heart attacks," he said. "It has shifted from acute to chronic."
The best form of prevention is proper diet -- Singh suggested a Mediterranean-type diet -- and proper exercise, the doctors said.
Being selected for the program is a great recognition of Sherman's cardiology work, Singh said.
"When you are recognized and supported in this fashion, it just rejuvenates the entire team -- and the community."