Heart patients reap the benefits from close collaboration between specialties

Head of Cardiology Dr Frank Provenier and Heart Surgeon Dr Philippe Ballaux indicate the main objectives and future trends in a brief combined interview: ‘The close involvement of the clinicians in patient care and the positive collaboration with the other departments in our hospital have proven to be an enormous advantage.’

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Patients can rely on a multidisciplinary team of cardiac experts who are highly committed in putting patient care first. ‘We’re fortunate enough to operate in a hospital that is the ideal size, that is, sufficiently large but with closely collaborating care professionals, allowing for frequent mutual consultation’, states Dr Ballaux.

Dr Provenier

These consultations take place on all levels, it turns out. Dr Provenier explains, ‘Our board is very accessible, they want to move forward and encourage innovation. Out colleagues at the Intensive Care Unit always work in an evidence-based manner and are exceptionally competitive and high-performing. The service provided by our radiologists is impressive; their scans are an important supporting tool for minimally invasive surgery. Although predominantly positioned in the diagnostic phase, they actively contribute to discussions about the therapeutic phase.

Dr Ballaux

Cardiology - heart surgery

The collaboration between cardiologists and heart surgeons continues to increase as well. ‘In view of the shared pathology, it’s no surprise at all that there are daily overlaps. The cardiologists ensure correct referrals and always make time to look at things with us’, states Dr Ballaux. ‘Before our patients go home they undergo a check-up by the cardiologist: is their medication in order, is another ultrasound needed, is all required information clearly included in the referral letter for the GP? Not only on weekdays but also at weekends patients can rely on these services’, he tells.

In the past, a choice often had to be made between intervention and surgery. ‘These days, the two are not always that distinct any more’, relays Dr Provenier. ‘Due to technological advances, cardiologists can work in a more invasive manner. Heart surgeons, on the other hand, more often use robotics and can achieve more with smaller incisions. This convergence translates into a larger, united entity. No longer is it either one OR the other. Consider, for example, coronary pathology and treatment: the care path we follow, together with the patient, is more hybrid in nature, e.g. use of a valve and a stent.’

This evolution emphasises the importance of the weekly cardiology-cardiac surgery staff meetings, attended by clinicians from both teams. If necessary, other specialists can be involved. ‘In future, we hope to see the GP attend virtually too, in line with the Multidisciplinary Oncology Consultations for cancer patients. The GP often knows the patient best and, in their role in terms of the patient’s home situation, can often provide useful information that goes beyond the purely clinical context. What support is available at home? ‘What is the patient still able and willing to do?’, asks Dr Provenier. This information is especially important in light of the current trend of increasingly older heart patients - one in six is older than 80 and is affected by severe chronic pathology. ‘Certain procedures that were not performed for patients of a certain age in the past, are being performed now, but require a higher level of support at home, e.g. by their informal carer. The importance of the support by our colleagues at the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department for this population cannot be underestimated’, tells Dr Ballaux.