Change of Heart: Online Assessment Reaches Patients Before They Enter ER

Cynthia Johnson , September 28, 2009

In response to critics, Gossett says that the company isn't in the business of driving up utilization. "That's not going to help prevention," he says. "We want to see prevention justified and working in this country. So to drive up utilization isn't going to do anyone any good."

He says that if 1,000 people take the assessment within a community, about 40% will have two or more cardiovascular risk factors. As a result, they would qualify for a "very beneficial" screening. Of the 60% who do not qualify, Gossett says that since they have not been identified as at risk, they are not brought in for screenings.

Obviously, from a business standpoint, hospitals need to generate money to stay afloat. For this reason, Gossett says that they need to remain ahead of their competition and improve their service line in order to become market leaders.

"It's a real valuable differentiator for the hospitals to be offering free educational services that are dedicated to the people who need the resources—at risk individuals," he says. "We believe the win-win situation is providing an educational service and developing an early relationship with a patient so that when the patient does need care you've done some good things for them."

By comparison, if a facility chooses not to take proactive measures to identify those at risk, Gossett says they will see the patient in the ER when they experience their first heart attack.

Hospital reaches out to those at risk
"Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Illinois and also in the county that we serve," says Vincent Bufalino, MD, medical director of cardiovascular services at Edward Heart Hospital. Bufalino says that he was initially skeptical that patients would actually go online and complete the HeartAware assessment. However, the hospital now has over 10,000 patients who have taken it in the three months it has been available. More than 80% of those completing the questionnaire are new patients.

"The success was unpredicted," he says. "We thought over six months we might get 8 or 10,000 patients completing the assessment."

"Edward is one of the best hospitals in the nation with HeartAware in terms of their numbers and the people they're educating," says Gossett.

Bufalino reports that a third of individuals who took the assessment were at moderate to high risk and over 2,000 patients have scheduled appointments for the free consultation.

"These are not people who have had events," says Bufalino. "These are all people who are looking to prevent an event. From a medical standpoint, it seemed to be a unique way for us to reach a community that we serve, that we frankly aren't serving because they aren't coming in—yet they're at risk." He says the free screenings offered by the hospital provide patients with a unique opportunity to sit down, go over their results with a healthcare professional, and provide them with some direction in terms of next steps. Patients also see value in the free heart scan that some randomly selected patients receive as part of the consultation.

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