Last year, Kirstin Blake became gravely ill with heart failure. Her heart was weakened by 16 rounds of chemotherapy used to fight her breast cancer. “Kirstin’s heart was pumping at only about 30%; normal is 55%,” says Saima Husain, MD, a cardiovascular disease specialist with the Heart Failure Clinic at McKay-Dee Hospital.

More than 6 million people in the United States suffer from heart failure, a condition where the heart is unable to pump enough blood—with needed oxygen and nutrients—to organs and tissues. This can lead to shortness of breath, frequent coughing, fatigue, dizziness, pain, and swelling of the legs, feet, and abdomen.

Since 2014, a multidisciplinary team of Intermountain clinicians has been developing a Heart Failure Pathway program designed to treat patients at high risk for heart failure, reduce the incidence of the disease, improve outcomes, and lower death rates.

The Heart Failure Clinic at McKay-Dee Hospital supports these efforts and was a pilot program for the pathway. The results were impressive, with a significant improvement in mortality rates.

Saima Husain, MD, is a cardiovascular disease specialist with the Heart Failure Clinic at McKay-Dee Hospital.

“Our goal is to improve the quality of life and increase the duration of life,” says Dr. Husain. “We work together with the patient, focusing on ‘I do my part, you do your part, and that’s how we’ll move forward.’”

Dr. Husain worked with Kirstin to help her make lifestyle changes and know what to look for, such as when her blood pressure falls, and how to respond. Kirstin says she is making healthier choices and better understands what her body is doing.

And even though Kirstin is still battling breast cancer, she has made significant progress related to her heart failure. “I will forever be grateful for the people in the Heart Failure Clinic,” she says. “We are a team.”

SAFER CARE

The mortality rate of McKay-Dee Hospital patients participating in a Heart Failure Pathway pilot program in 2014 was 7%, compared to 19% for heart failure patients not participating.