Bringing Cardiac Care Closer to Rural Patients

A partnership between two hospitals is bringing cardiac care closer to home for patients in rural areas.

This project started between health facilities in Kitchener and Listowel, communities about sixty kilometers apart.

The aim is to prevent people from having to drive to get a routine heart test, especially for elderly patients who are not well enough for the journey.

An echocardiogram is a type of heart test that the program is providing easier access to.

“It’s basically an ultrasound of the heart in real time, and it gives us a lot of information on the health status of your heart” said Dr. Rob Annis. Listowel family physician.

It provides information on how well the heart pumping or if the patient has a tight or leaking valve.

This is a critical step for diagnosis of common heart conditions, as well as treatment plans for stroke and cancer patients.

“Sometimes it does cut down on multiple trips to come up with the same plan,” said Dr. Heather Warren, Director of Echocardiography at St. Mary’s Regional Cardiac Care Centre.

A partnership that has been going on for the past two years between St. Mary’s Hospital and Listowel Memorial Hospital is helping to speed up the process.

“The patient just goes into Listowel hospital,” explained Dr. Warren. “Performs their studies and then those studies are submitted electronically to our server here at St. Mary’s.”

The images are then viewed by a cardiologist in Kitchener and then sent back to Listowel with recommendations for the doctor there.

“I had been experiencing some shortness of breath and my doctor wanted to investigate it. One of the tests they wanted to run was an echocardiogram,” said Dennis Nuhn, Listowel hospital patient and dentist at Palmerston Dental.

For Dennis Nuhn, an appointment in Kitchener would’ve meant lost time working at his dental clinic in Palmerston.

“I would have to shift a half days’ worth of patients somewhere,” explained Nuhn.

The Listowel hospital however, is only a short 12 minute drive from his practice.

“It’s great, we get results almost instantaneously,” said Nuhn.

The program is also a very convenient for ill and older patients.

“One bad day in the snow and you don’t want to put someone with a sick heart on that road,” said Dr. Annis.

St. Mary’s Hospital also plans to expand this partnership to other community hospitals this year, with a similar plan for treatment in place.

The hospital hasn’t announced which communities the extended partnership plans to serve.

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