December 20, 1996

Outpatient Cardiology keeps patients in focus

Outpatient Cardiology keeps patients in focus

The patient comes first, according to the new Vanderbilt Credo.

Outpatient Cardiology is one of many areas of Vanderbilt University Medical Center taking this maxim "to heart," offering more "patient-focused" delivery of services. In the current health care climate, it is necessary to become more outpatient-focused, said Dr. John H. Dixon Jr., associate clinical professor of Medicine and medical director of the Cardiology Outpatient Clinic.

"The whole delivery of medicine, in general and at Vanderbilt, is being transformed. The idea is to do it wisely. There are big changes being made, but also smaller changes that are taking us toward being able to deliver outpatient medicine more efficiently."

Judy Topping, R.N., manager of Outpatient Cardiology Services, said the short-term goals are to simply be more patient-focused and patient-friendly. For example, if a patient from out of town is in Nashville seeing his or her physician, and is referred to a VUMC cardiologist for cardiac testing, the patient can usually be seen the same day. Otherwise, the patient would have to return home, then come back to Nashville another day.

"Things can get pretty chaotic around a hospital," Dixon said. "Our goal is to be user friendly from the front desk all the way back to where the testing is done. It all goes along with the Credo – the patient comes first."

Dixon said that along with caring for the patient, the changes in outpatient cardiology will also influence VUMC's other two missions, education and research.

"The whole scheme of outpatient medicine not only has to do with patient care and service, but also teaching new physicians about outpatient care," Dixon said. "We feel that outpatient medicine needs to be taught well in the academic community. In the past it has been a skill that physicians tended to learn on the job. Vanderbilt is committed to setting up a systematic curriculum to teach outpatient medicine at a fellow and resident level, to teach physicians to enjoy it and to do it well.

"We want to make this a prototype outpatient teaching model for academic institutions across the whole United States. It's a very high goal."

Outpatient services will also serve as a research tool, answering questions about such issues as preventive medicine, lipid maintenance and the effectiveness of exercise programs in treating cardiac patients, Dixon said.

An emphasis will also be put on identifying patients at other types of risk – financial and psychosocial – or those with a lack of family support, Topping said.

"We will be able to recognize those folks that potentially might need intervention from a social worker early on, rather than waiting until the need arises when they have an acute episode of illness and are hospitalized."