By Marycon Young, Vitals contributor
Bill Oaks, a Bay Area musician, strikes a chord of triumph in his battle with heart failure thanks to the innovative approaches of Sutter’s Heart Failure Care Pathway.
Oaks’ journey began with a routine check-up, where he received the alarming news about his heart condition.
“A heartbeat is like a drumbeat,” said Oaks, a Sutter Health patient, drawing parallels between his music and his health. “If it’s irregular, the song is going to fall apart.”
Oaks is in good hands with Dr. Michael X. Pham, medical director of the Advanced Heart Failure Program and chief of cardiology at Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center and his team. They carefully navigated Oaks’ initial prognosis, which included the possibility of advanced heart failure therapies like a heart transplant or implantation of an LVAD – a left ventricular assist device.
Dr. Pham, known for his meticulous approach, saw Oaks monthly, adjusting his medication to optimal levels. This relentless focus on personalized care paid off. Within six years, Oaks achieved a stable condition, free from hospitalizations and the need for advanced therapies.
The care team’s approach reflects the principles of Sutter’s Heart Failure Care Pathway.
“The essence of the Heart Failure Care Pathway is really having primary care physicians, advanced practice clinicians, pharmacists, cardiologists and heart failure specialists working together,” said Dr. Pham. “This collaborative approach is vital to improving patient lives.”
Why the Heart Failure Care Pathway
The Heart Failure Care Pathway, Sutter Health’s first care pathway, emphasizes whole-person health, focusing on prevention, diet, diagnosis, treatment, appropriate referrals and patient education. It serves as a blueprint for managing chronic conditions for large patient populations.
“A care pathway really ensures that we are all aligned in terms of knowing what to do and when to do it,” said Dr. Pham.
Since its inception in fall 2023, the Heart Failure Care Pathway has seen positive feedback from physicians and advanced practice clinicians within Sutter. With heart failure affecting an estimated 8 million Americans by 2030, and one in 10 Sutter Health patients over 65 living with the condition, this initiative is critical.
“It’s a comprehensive approach, including physician support tools, Guideline-Directed Medical Therapy optimization and patient education to ensure equitable, accessible care,” said Dr. Pham.
What’s ahead in 2024?
Looking ahead to 2024, Sutter Health focuses on acute care and transitioning patients from hospital to home. Additionally, the system dashboard is being enhanced to better identify heart failure patients and track outcomes.
“By standardizing best practices, our aim is to reduce rehospitalizations and enhance quality of life,” said Dr. Pham.