THE HEART OF THE MATTER
a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA) 

Transcripts: 492.3 & 492.4

Week: 492.3 Guest: Bernadette Sowder Topic: The Heart Center Part One Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is a two part conversation on a lower cost, more relaxed option to a hospital for heart catherizations and stress tests called the Heart Center of Towson in Baltimore, Maryland. My guest is Center Director Bernadette Sowder.

NEMA: Bernadette, would you give us a little bit of background about the The Heart Center and explain how it differs from a hospital.

Sowder: Okay. The Heart Center of Towson evolved about a year ago. We've been in business since July 11th of 1994. We evolved from a company called Cardio vascular Ventures which is out of New Orleans. We had a cardiologist back maybe four or five years ago in that area that had a hard time scheduling heart catherizations in a hospital, always got bumped, never had his procedures done on time and felt that he wanted to come up with his own center or some way that he could make the convenience to the patients and to the physician better and what he did was open these Heart Centers throughout the United States. The Heart Center of Towson does come from this company called Cardio vascular Ventures and we opened the Center here in July of last year, opened our doors to area cardiologists and brought this service to the community. How it differs from the hospital is that we give the patient the one on one care, the one on one nursing care that the hospitals nowadays have seemed to lack and slack off. Also here the procedures will be done on time. There'll be no bumping of that physician and no bumping of time scheduled so the patient will not have to wait or maybe bump to the next day because of other emergency procedures that may happen so they know if they're going to have a 9:00 procedure, it's going to take place probably between 9:00 and 9:10.

NEMA: To do a little background, explain what a catherization is.

Sowder: A heart cauterization is for people who are having chest pains. They normally go to see their cardiologist. The cardiologist may say okay, to find out what's giving you that chest pain we may do a stress test. They do the stress test that may evolve into an abnormal evaluation and then they say okay, the next step before we do anything about your problem, we have to look at the coronary arteries inside your body. The only way they can visualize that is on an x ray machine by injecting dye into the coronary arteries. A catheter which is very very small, maybe the size of a roundness of a paper clip, maybe a little bit larger than that, goes into the artery down in your leg and is guided up into and around the heart where an x-ray dye is then injected into your coronary arteries and it's visualized on x ray and the whole procedure takes about 30 minutes. It's pretty much painless. The patient is given a little bit of sedative so they relax throughout the procedure and then post procedure they're asked to lie flat for about two to four hours, depending on the individual patient and cardiologist.

NEMA: Okay. So now part of the difference between the Heart Center and a hospital is that the Heart Center is dedicated to that procedure and that class of procedures.

Sowder: Exactly and this way we can cater to one on one needs of the patient.

NEMA: Join me for part two on the Heart Center with Bernadette Sowder.

Week: 492.4 Guest: Bernadette Sowder Topic: The Heart Center Part Two Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is the second half of a conversation on a lower cost, more relaxed option to a hospital for heart catherizations and stress tests called the Heart Center of Towson in Baltimore, Maryland. My guest is Center Director Bernadette Sowder. I asked Ms. Sowder to describe how the Heart Center differs from a hospital.

Sowder: We can cater to one on one needs of the patient and also we do a lot of patient education and we keep the families with them up to the time of the procedure, the families can wait in their recovery room for the patient to come out of the procedure and then as soon as the procedure is finished the patient's family is notified and then the patient's family also is with them throughout the whole recovery period. When they're recovering, in each individual's room there is a VCR camera TV where they can watch movies throughout the recovery time and also we provide snacks and sodas and again, each of this is one on one nursing care where they're watched just like a hospital would be. But again, where we have a low cost in providing this care, we can also provide more of the nurses than the hospitals tending to streamline.

NEMA: That was next question to you. Are costs comparable to a hospital?

Sowder: We're about 1/3 less. We can do the procedure for a lot less. We don't have the overhead that the hospitals have so that we can provide the one on one care for a lot less money.

NEMA: Which leads me to my next question. One of the historic problems about out patient versus in patient care has related to insurance. How do Medicare and other insurance companies respond to what you're doing?

Sowder: They love it. They absolutely love it. For instance, our Center here has been certified by Medicare and most insurance companies come knocking on our door to arrange contracts with us because we can provide a service that's better to their clientele for less money and for the same cost effective means, it can be just as safe and the outcome just the same as the hospital's for a more cost effective price.

NEMA: Is the Heart Center licensed by the state?

Sowder: Yes we are. We've passed certification by Medicare. We've passed certification by OSHA standards and also we have just applied for Joint Commission Accreditation through the health care organizations. Actually the JCHO is an accreditation for all hospital facilities and we've taken on that licensor so that we could put our standards up where hospitals are.

NEMA: One question I'd be curious to know. You've said you've been working at this facility for around a year. What has your feedback been like from patients?

Sowder: Oh my God, patients love it. The patients just absolutely love it. We send a comment form home with every patient and we get I'd say about 89% to 90% of those returned with a self stamped addressed envelope and when they come back, they're not just circled for the pre answered. There are comments written. We get flowers sent by patients. We get candy. We get calls of thank you. We also call our patients 24 hours post op and sometimes we have a hard time getting off the phone with them because they're just thanking us for the wonderful care.