High Point Regional Physicians Published at the American College of Cardiology Conference

5/5/2016

A research study published in April at the American College of Cardiology Conference, by Dr. David Fitzgerald and Dr. Zan Tyson, with UNC Regional Physicians Carolina Cardiology showed how emergency departments could effectively treat low-risk Atrial Fibrillation patients using outpatient techniques while reducing expenses for both the patient and the hospital.   

Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia affecting more than 2.5 million individuals each year in the US. Although atrial fibrillation is not usually life-threatening, it does cause numerous health complications, including fatigue, pain and an increased risk for stroke.  The most common symptoms of atrial fibrillation are a sensation of a racing, fast or irregular heartbeat; shortness of breath; weakness, especially with exertion; and dizziness.  Frequently, patients mistake an episode of A-Fib as a heart attack which results with an unnecessary and costly trip to the emergency department. 

Through this research study, Dr. Tyson and Dr. Fitzgerald developed a triage tool to help emergency room providers identify low-risk A-Fib patients and coordinate their care in an outpatient manner reducing expenses for patients while still ensuring patient safety. 

“In this study we managed the care of approximately 233 individuals – 73 were managed using this triage tool with the remainder managed with conventional methods,” said Dr. Tyson.  “The total average costs per patient were significantly less in patients managed by the triage tool with a savings of nearly $4,300 per patient.” 

The tool is a checklist of A-Fib risk factors including age of less than 75 years; post-treatment heart rate of less than 110 beats per minute; clear chest x-ray; and absence of neurological findings among others.  Patients who quality for outpatient management must meet all of the checklist criteria and then received a follow up phone call within 48 hours and an office appointment within one week.    

“By using this tool, the emergency departments were able to quickly identify low-risk A-Fib patients, treat them with high quality care, reduce the patient’s length of stay at the hospital and demonstrate considerable savings for both the patient and the care facility,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. 

“We were highly honored to be published at the American College of Cardiology annual conference,” said Dr. Tyson.  “Less than 20 percent of studies are accepted and published at this conference.  We were pleased to be able to share our triage tool so hospitals across the country can provide better care for A-Fib patients.” 

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