05 Feb Olympic Medical Heart Center: Reflecting on 2020 and Looking Toward the Future
Olympic Medical Heart Center has always had a simple goal: to keep your heart as healthy as possible so that you can live your best life. Even in an unpredictable year like 2020, this goal has stayed the same.
As we ease into 2021, let’s check in with the peninsula-based heart center to hear more about how it navigated a new normal in 2020, what to look forward to this year and an important tip for a healthy heart in 2021.
Virtual Cardiac Rehabilitation at Olympic Medical Heart Center
The heart center at Olympic Medical Center provides high-quality, personalized cardiac care for patients on the Olympic Peninsula. This includes cardiac rehabilitation programs that help patients heal after a heart attack or other cardiac event.
When the pandemic started, in-person group cardiac rehabilitation classes couldn’t continue as normal. To remedy this, the Heart Center started using a home-based virtual cardiac rehab program called Chanl Health. This virtual tool made it possible for patients receive the rehabilitation care they needed without multiple weekly visits to the hospital.
Currently, the heart center is using a hybrid model for its cardiac rehab patients, with all patients coming in for one weekly face-to-face visit and the rest taking place at home. With the majority of patients needing three days a week of cardiac rehab over a 12-week span, this hybrid model allows patients to safely work toward their recovery during the pandemic.
“What we have been seeing is the patient is starting to develop healthy lifestyle habits a lot sooner with fewer face-to-face visits,” said Lindi Matthews, heart center rehabilitation coordinator.
While the hybrid model was spurred on because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the heart center doesn’t see it going away.
“What COVID has done is give us the remote options we didn’t have before, and we’re not going to get rid of those,” said Leonard Anderson, Olympic Medical Heart Center director. “Now we have people from Clallam Bay, Neah Bay or Forks who couldn’t come to the hospital three days a week for rehab who can now do check-ins at home and get education, and they only need to come in once a week or so.”
The move toward a hybrid model also allows for decreased wait times for appointments and the ability for more patients to be seen at the heart center. “In past years, we had difficulty keeping up with the number of referrals to the cardiac rehab program,” said Anderson. “It’s the direction we were going already, and COVID accelerated the process.”
What to Look Forward to at the Heart Center in 2021
In 2021, the Olympic Medical Heart Center looks forward to welcoming Amy Kalisek, FNP-C, a cardiac nurse practitioner. Kalisek will join the current team of cardiologists at the heart center made up of Dr. Kara Urnes, Dr. Robert Henson II, Dr. James Emery, and nurse practitioner Tracy Zaher-Lee, ARNP.
In addition to adding a new provider to the team, the heart center will also add five new cardiac ultrasound systems to their arsenal of life-saving equipment. The machines perform cardiovascular ultrasounds, or echocardiograms, which use ultrasound imaging to provide a picture of the heart. The new machines will provide much clearer images, said Anderson, which means better information and clearer care plans for patients.
How to Stay Heart Healthy Today
During American Heart Month, it’s important to reflect on what you can do to keep your heart healthy, especially during the pandemic.
In addition to more well-known tactics like exercising 30 minutes a day, refraining from smoking and managing stress, Anderson wants to remind you to see your doctor or get help when you notice a problem.
“A lot of people are afraid to go to the hospital or to a clinic right now because of COVID,” said Anderson. “But if you think you might be having cardiac symptoms, even a minor one, seeing your doctor or going to the hospital is the best thing you can do. Hospitals are very safe.”
Anderson recommends sticking to your primary care appointments and not delaying treatment. According to Anderson, poor cardiac event outcomes were on the rise in 2020 because patients were afraid to go to the hospital or see their doctor.
“The best person to start with is your primary care provider,” said Anderson. “They will reach out to the heart center if you need us. And if you need us to support you, we’ll be there.”
To learn more about the Olympic Medical Heart Center and care, visit www.olympicmedical.org/healthyheart.