A unique clinic created last year for congestive heart failure (CHF) patients has made a major difference in the quality of life for participants.

The clinic, created by Northern Light AR Gould Hospital, had its incredible success recently recognized when the program was named the first-place winner of the Quality Performance Excellence Award presented at Northern Light Health’s second annual Quality Summit.

Northern Light Health AR Gould

John Raymond, PA-C, a provider in the hospital’s cardiology department, says heart failure is the number one cause of readmission, not only at AR Gould, but throughout the country. “These patients can be very sick, with multiple medical issues. We wanted to do something for these patients in Aroostook County.”

According to Raymond, the national average of hospital readmission for CHF is about 23 percent, while AR Gould’s rate had hit as high as 33% at some points. To change this situation, a series of meetings were held with staff and providers from all of the departments involved in CHF care. The group included cardiologists, nurses, primary care providers, dietitians, pharmacists, hospitals, and cardiac rehab staff. Readmission rates for CHF patients are now averaging only eight to ten percent at the hospital.

Congestive heart failure is when the heart can’t pump blood normally. It can make a person feel weak, tired, or dizzy.  It can also affect the lungs and make you short of breath. CHF patients can struggle with activities in daily life as well as health issues related to their CHF.

The clinic follows guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. It includes an organized, interdisciplinary team, a standard education program, and a fine-tuned communication system. Patients are followed after discharge, and the program continues to evolve to meet their needs.

A key component is a patient nurse navigator who serves as the link between the patients and their families with providers, home care nurses, inpatient nurses, and others associated with their CHF care. This nurse navigator ensures patients are getting the education they need and that proper follow-up is done.

Over the past year, the  program has grown to include roughly 200 patients across the County, who the team of Northern Light Heart & Lung are following closely.

Northern Light AR Gould Hospital’s CHF Clinic was one of three finalists for the Quality Performance Excellence Award. After a presentation by the finalists at the Annual Quality Summit, the CHF Clinic was selected as the first-place winner.

Leaders from the hospital and the Heart and Lung practice are now planning to use this model to create a COPD clinic for pulmonary patients in Aroostook County.