February 23, 2007

People, partners drive growth of Heart Institute

Featured Image

Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute staff and faculty at last week’s town hall informational meetings. (photo by Anne Rayner)

People, partners drive growth of Heart Institute

Ask any cardiovascular faculty or staff member what is behind the success of the Vanderbilt Heart & Vascular Institute, and the answer inevitably will include the words “partnership” and “collaboration.”

As the Heart Institute moves towards its goal of creating one of the elite cardiovascular programs in the nation, officials recognize the need to build on clinical, research and training programs. But what sets Vanderbilt apart from many cardiovascular centers in the country is its focus on integrative partnerships.

It's one of the first academic centers in the country to design its services around the “shared patient” concept, said John Byrne, M.D., chair of Cardiac Surgery.

“It's how we are organized and how we interact with each other that is innovative. It's the idea of a 'heart hospital within a hospital,' and how we view interventional cardiology and cardiac surgery as one, not competing, units. It's a collaborative effort to deliver the best customer value.”

Byrne's viewpoints are echoed throughout the leadership of the Heart Institute. He, along with Doug Vaughan, M.D., Thomas DiSalvo, M.D., and Keith Churchwell, M.D., shared the vision and strategies of the Heart Institute with faculty and staff during two Town Hall meetings on Thursday, Feb. 15. The 45-minute, informational sessions highlighted program accomplishments, procedure growth and volume, plans for continued success, introduction of new faculty and staff as well as a question/answer period.

“Because of our rapid expansion, it's time for an introduction of new colleagues and friends and time to broaden the awareness of the understanding of our vision and the opportunities we have for growth,” said DiSalvo, medical director of the Heart Institute. “It's also time for distinguishing ourselves as a center for innovative and impeccable quality of care for our patients.

“It's not just the next sexy procedure,” DiSalvo said. “It's also how physicians interact collaboratively to ensure that their shared patients are receiving the best possible care; living partnership with shared decision-making in the best interest of our patients. That can be innovative too — shared care, not care determined by personal agendas or other objectives.”

DiSalvo said that the Heart Institute's reorganization and patient care delivery system serves as a model for other academic centers. Cardiology, Cardiac Surgery, Vascular Surgery, Cardiac Imaging and Cardiac Anesthesia make up the Heart Institute. A combined effort from every area is necessary in order to be among the top 10 cardiovascular programs in the nation, according to Heart Institute administrators.

Areas of focus to achieve that goal include: patient care with special attention to high-volume, comprehensive services, impeccable quality and innovative product lines; training that is dedicated to teaching the best in the field; attracting and retaining leaders of national caliber; and supporting research in basic, translational and clinical areas with an emphasis on innovation and impact.

“Our clinical program has the depth and breadth that allows us to compete with anyone on national level,” said Vaughan, chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. “This will allow us to distinguish ourselves from other cardiovascular centers in the country. Our participation and visibility in clinical trials is critical. Our selection in the cell therapy research network is a validation that we can do research on this level and that we have the size and talent to be successful in a field that could revolutionize how cardiovascular disease is treated.

“We are at the table, and that says a lot about what we have accomplished here.”

While much of the program's attention has been on the successes and how to continue the march toward becoming a preeminent program, leaders discussed other key elements in realizing their vision — maintaining the level of quality, clinicians and innovative technology the program has experienced in the past three years.

Since 2004 some of the milestones of growth include, the opening of the first phase of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) inpatient units, opening of the Hybrid-OR, opening of a dedicated MRI suite, opening of the 40,000-square-foot outpatient facility, and being named to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Cardiac Cell Therapy Network.

The VHVI also plays an important role in providing patients and resources for Vanderbilt’s interdepartmental Specialized Center for Clinically Oriented Research (SCCOR) in Hemostatic and Thrombotic Diseases.

In the last year, the Heart Institute has become the “busiest cardiovascular program in town” with an expansion in faculty — nearly doubling — and there has been a significant increase in the number of procedures performed.

“Our goals are to become the cardiovascular center of choice for patients in this part of the country and to be a significant referral center,” said Churchwell, associate director of the Heart Institute. “We want to be a leader in the development of new techniques and advances in cardiovascular care.

“The plans call for us to push forward our agenda to maximize and leverage our cardiovascular expertise on campus while creating outreach programs to serve the communities in the region.”

Vanderbilt has several outreach sites that provide opportunities for Vanderbilt faculty to consult with regional physicians on cardiovascular cases. Tennessee sites include: Franklin, Shelbyville, Tullahoma, Celina, Sparta, Livingston, Winchester, and Crossville. Kentucky networks include Greenville, Princeton and Franklin.

Alliances that have been established include partnerships with regional hospitals in Clarksville, Lebanon, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma and, most recently, Columbia.

“The focus is on making our growth durable and retaining and expanding the success we have had over the last several months and work on having one of the highest quality programs in the country,” said Vaughan.

Last week's were the first of several Town Hall meetings the Heart Institute will hold in an effort to communicate, share and update the staff about issues concerning the cardiovascular program.

“We've grown so quickly there is a sense of bewilderment and uncertainty for those who work different shifts,” said DiSalvo, referring to day, night, weekend and holiday staffing. “We want to undo that. We are one organization joined in a common purpose, which is to provide superb care to our patients. That can only be achieved through open and frequent communication.”