For the citizens of Kingsport, Tennessee, quality healthcare isn't difficult to find. The area is booming with healthcare facilities and practices, including Holston Valley Medical Center, Indian Path Medical Center, HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, Holston Medical Group, Mountain Region Family Medicine, just to name of few.
As patients look at the many choices for care, quality data is beginning to impact their decision. As Herbert Ladley, MD, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Associates (CVA) in Kingsport, explained, over the years, providers have been asking questions about themselves, i.e., How are we doing? But until recently, that information has been kept behind the closed doors of the hospital.
"But now, the public and payers [insurance companies] get to look at the data and try to understand it," Ladley said.
National databases such as HealthGrades and Thomson Reuters make available to the public information about hospitals and providers across the nation.
"As an example, at Holston Valley, for the last year, cardiology has been out front in obtaining nationwide benchmarking data for quality cardiology and cardiac surgery," Ladley said. "Most hospital participate in the ones that have been around for the longest time, but more and more databases are looking at cardiac procedures. We found out last year that we are one of only about 35 hospitals in the country that participate in every benchmarking data set."
Holston Valley has twice been named one of the nation's Top 100 heart hospitals, in addition to the number one cardiology ranking by HealthGrades. Holston Valley is ranked in the top ten percent in the nation for cardiology care.
Another accolade for Holston Valley is the recent award it received from the American College of Cardiology Foundation's NCDR Action Registry-GWTG Gold Performance Achievement Award. Holston Valley was one of only 135 hospitals in the nation to earn this designation. The award recognizes Holston Valley's commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients. To earn the honor, Holston Valley had to consistently follow Action Registry-GWTG treatment guidelines for 24 consecutive months. These guidelines include aggressive use of medications such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, aspirin and anticoagulants in the hospital.
Part of the quality care that is delivered in Kingsport is the availability of new techniques in heart care.
Since March, Drs. Marc Mayhew and Pabrita Saha, both board-certified interventional cardiologists with CVA, have regularly used the radial artery in the wrist instead of the femoral artery in the groin to perform heart catheterizations. It's a relatively uncommon method in the United States but one that offers patients quicker recovery times. Dr. Mayhew estimates he and Dr. Saha have performed about 120 heart catheterizations by entering through the wrist.
There are two main reasons why Drs. Mayhew and Saha prefer using the radial artery. "The number one reason is patient safety," Mayhew said. "The number two reason is patient comfort. Both of these are extremely important to us as we meet our goal to treat our patients compassionately."
According to Dr. Mayhew, patients who undergo a heart catheterization through the groin have to lie flat for three to six hours and usually have to spend a night in the hospital if a stent has been inserted. By contrast, patients who have the procedure through the wrist can get up in one or two hours and may be discharged the same day even if a stent has been inserted.
Nurse Connection Celebrates Five Years
A large part of the quality care delivered in Kingsport is from the nursing staff, and whether it's the middle of the day or the middle of the night on any day of the year, when someone in the region needs help with a medical problem, a reassuring voice is just a phone call away.
"Wellmont Nurse Connection, this is Diana Pierce, a registered nurse. How may I help you?" Pierce was the first employee to answer a call when Nurse Connection went into service five years ago, and she is still dispensing valuable assistance over the phone today. She is joined by a team of other registered nurses who work around the clock to ensure Wellmont Health System delivers compassionate care to the people of Kingsport, as well as Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
In these five years, Nurse Connection has answered nearly 500,000 calls that span the spectrum of medical care – from the severe to the routine – and grown from seven employees to 45.
All of the calls that come into Nurse Connection are answered by a registered nurse. Director Judy Rasnake said the top five medical issues the nurses answer over the phone are chest pain, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, back pain and pediatric fever. But the nurses have to be prepared for whatever concern might be presented by the caller.
"The goal of Nurse Connection is to serve our hospitals, our health system, physicians, employees and departments and the community at large," Rasnake said. "We believe we accomplish that with a high level of service that results in quality outcomes for everyone we serve."
Friends in Need
The Kingsport community also benefits from the Friends in Need Health Center, Inc., a community supported medical, dental, and counseling clinic for the employed uninsured residents and members of their immediate families of Sullivan, Hawkins, and Scott counties. Friends in Need was recently the recipient of a one time $1600 special funding from the Sullivan South Area Community Chest.
This special funding is designated for the purchase of 150 influenza vaccinations so that FIN can have the ability to inoculate at risk patients for the 2010/2011 flu season.
Currently, approx. 636 patient visits per year at Friends In Need are from patients who reside in the Colonial Heights Area. In 2009, Friends in Need served 1271 patients for 7,744 patient visits.
Friends in Need is in its 15th year of operation. For more information on how to get involved, visit their Web site at www.friendsinneed.org.