It can be difficult to manage the symptoms of heart failure and live with this chronic condition on your own. Almost half of people with heart failure are at risk for readmission to the hospital within six months of their diagnosis due to worsening or new symptoms.
To better help patients with this condition, Augusta Health opened the Heart Failure Clinic in July 2018.
The Heart Failure Clinic provides education, resources and support for those with heart failure, whether at the time of diagnosis or when extra help is needed. Tami Collins, a board-certified nurse practitioner who specializes in heart failure, meets with patients one-on-one while they’re in the hospital to tell them about the clinic.
“Physicians place a consult for me to see the patient before they leave the hospital and make that connection,” says Collins. “We ask if they’d [the patient] be interested in following up with us when they’re out of the hospital, and if agreeable, we arrange an appointment in our clinic.”
Upon the first visit to the clinic, patients receive a welcome packet that includes a daily weight tracker, heart failure symptom tracker, contact information for the clinic, how to recognize a heart failure emergency, and other helpful educational resources. Collins also evaluates patients, their records and history, as well as discusses any concerns or questions. After the first visit, Collins follows up with patients weekly for 30 days to help reinforce the different areas of heart failure management.
“I closely monitor them,” she says. “We review their medications and their lab work. We go over detailed heart failure education — signs and symptoms of heart failure, recognition of those symptoms, daily weight, fluid and sodium restrictions, and their diet. Hopefully, they got some education in the hospital, but it can be hard to remember things, especially if you’re feeling sick or it’s a new diagnosis of heart failure. So this is how we help reinforce it.”
Patients can choose to have Collins and Emily Back, RN, the nurse in the clinic and Collins’ self-described “right hand,” continue to follow up with them after their 30 days as often as needed. Collins always encourages patients to call the clinic with any concern. “We work closely with patients’ continuing providers,” she says. “We are lucky that physicians in the cardiology office are particularly supportive of us.”
The clinic plans to continue to offer more services, such as IV diuresis, which helps relieve congestion in patients with difficulty breathing, so they do not have to turn to the emergency room for treatment. Collins hopes that expanding services and support will help the clinic devote more time to even more patients and continuing education at Augusta Health.
“Patients absolutely love us,” says Collins. “Patients and families seem very satisfied with how much time we spend [with them].”
“I do see this service growing significantly within the next six months,” she adds. “I absolutely believe we are making a difference.”
The Heart Failure Clinic is located on the second floor of the Heart and Vascular Center at Augusta Health. It is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more or to contact the clinic, call (540) 245-7080.