What is the cost of a heart

Sue Feury

1 in 3 adults in the U.S. have some form of cardiovascular disease.[1]  This is a nationwide epidemic.  Many will go on to suffer myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and – assuming they survive – suffer some degree of compromised heart function, also known as heart failure.

You need your heart for a reason – it supplies oxygenated blood to your body, feeding your organs and tissues.  When your heart deteriorates, so does your body.

At the American College of Cardiology conference this week in San Francisco, I am reminded of how many companies have built businesses around devices to support or replace heart function either in emergent or chronic settings.  Insurers are willing to spend tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars on a cardiac assist device and the procedure necessary to implant it — all to save just one person.

How much would you be willing to spend to support or replace a heart?

For those who need it, these technologies and procedures are nothing short of miraculous.  And the clinicians in the cath lab or the OR are true heroes who deserve the utmost praise.

Yet, often these patients do not return to the quality of life of their pre-heart-failure days.  Sadder still, many instances of heart attack and heart failure can be avoided or at least delayed.

The Department of Health and Human Services has challenged the U.S. healthcare system to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes over the course of 5 years.  The Million Hearts™ initiative, as it is known, has called for participating institutions to put a significant dent in this epidemic.  If successful, the program could easily save billions of dollars in healthcare expenditures and lost economic productivity[2] as well as greatly enrich the lives of, well, millions.

MedStar Health, the largest healthcare system in the Maryland and Washington DC regions[3] and one of our Centricity EMR customers, is among the first to take up the challenge.  Dr. Peter Basch, the Medical Director of Ambulatory EHR and Health IT Policy, told me that his institution is taking advantage of the power of Centricity EMR and other Health IT to implement programs designed to help address the ABCs of cardiovascular risk reduction.

A – using an aspirin regimen where indicated

B – achieving blood pressure goals

C – achieving cholesterol goals

S – ceasing smoking

I’m excited to hear more about the program that his institution kicked off late last year at our upcoming user group meeting, Centricity LIVE, in April.

The problem of cardiovascular disease in the U.S. will not go away on its own.  In fact, despite the traditional efforts of thousands of physicians, we’re heading in the wrong direction.  I applaud MedStar Health for taking a bold step to make a difference.

How much would you spend to save a heart? Will you take up the challenge?

[1] http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/index.html

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

[1] http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/aboutmh/partners/medstar.html

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