Cardiac Catheterization Lab at the Frances Langford Heart Center in Martin Medical Center, Stuart


STUART — Martin Health System and the Cleveland Clinic shared their vision Tuesday about what combining their forces in cardiovascular care will mean to patients.

Robert L. Lord, Jr., President and CEO, Martin Health System

The agreement with Martin is the Cleveland Clinic’s first cardiac affiliation in Florida. Cleveland Clinic has more than 20 affiliations throughout the United States.

“From its inception Frances Langford Heart program has tried to provide the highest possible quality of care to the communities we serve and we like to think we have done a good job,’’ said Martin Health CEO Robert Lord. “The Cleveland Clinic cardiovascular program is the premier program in the county, which is evidenced by its remarkable string of 23 consecutive years being named the premier program. We are very good and should always thrive to be the very best. One way to do that, is to partner with the very best to work with them. To bring in physicians and other providers who are truly elite in their field, to provide the best facilities and equipment for them to work with and have the best protocols and practice patterns. This in turn results in the best outcomes. Then we measure those outcomes critically so we are constantly looking for ways to improve.”

“The thing is if you have something that is not very good there is lots of room for improvement. If you’re really good then you are searching for slivers of improvement here and there, we believe that the Cleveland Clinic will help us do that,” said Lord.

“I expect to start right away in the next month or so, with the implementation of many of the practices, protocols, policies and quality measurement processes,” he said. “By the August timeframe, I expect to have completely taken this program into that affiliation full scale, and have full integration of the Cleveland Clinic occur over the summertime.”

“The way the affiliation works is that we become engaged,” said the Cleveland Clinics’ Jeffrey Rich, M.D “I always laugh and say it’s more like a marriage than a date. We come in here continually and evaluate the program, we extract data from the national databases, which includes the society of thoracic surgeons and the American college of cardiology databases and we use that to analyze the quality of care at Martin and  any of our affiliates. Then we look at strengths and weaknesses and formulate corrective action plans if we feel one is necessary. For example, a typical one is when you stay on the ventilator too long after heart surgery – so we have protocols to reduce that incidence. So patients benefit from that. We look at a very detailed amount of data from here and the patient experience.”

Jeffrey Rich, MD, Chair of Operations and Strategy, Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic will work not only with physicians but with all clinicians, nurses, PA’s, nurse practitioners, everybody across the service line – communicating through data collection, quarterly and meetings by phone and in person visits.

“Through the course of the year we will come as necessary if there is some area that we are asked to come and reassess, say, O.R. efficiency or the quality of the echocardiograms – we do over reads on echocardiograms. Martin will send us 40 [echocardiograms] and we will read them at the clinic to see if they are technically good and if the read is what we agree with – we do written reports for that. We work very hard to maintain very high quality imaging standards here and with any of our affiliates. We do second opinion consults for a difficult or questionable case. The surgeons can call any of the Cleveland surgeons and review the entire case with them with all the data and a decision can be made whether we do it. Sometimes we say, ‘No’ because we wouldn’t do it at our main campus facility or we will say, ‘It’s a complex case,’ and suggest an approach.”

The intent of the affiliate program is not to have patients go to Cleveland Clinic. “We are here just to help. Probably one thing that happens with the affiliations is that you become better and are able to offer procedures that are more complex to patients because you have the resources and us to back you up.”

Cardiac Catheterization Lab at the Frances Langford Heart Center in Martin Medical Center, Stuart

Cardiac Catheterization Lab at the Frances Langford Heart Center in Martin Medical Center, Stuart

“One good patient experience is worth a thousand marketing campaigns,’’ Rich said. “The best marketing in the community is a satisfied patient who had a good result and was treated exceptionally well. That’s the culture we try to create within our affiliates and what we promote. When we do our assessment, we are certain that culture and mindset is already there.’’

“We won’t affiliate with institutions with no culture for change – you have to be ready for change, flexible, looking and doing introspection. We do that at the Clinic all the time. We don’t sit still. Quality is a dynamic process it’s not static. Once you achieve it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. We have seen some programs go from 3 star to 2 star from not paying enough attention to maintaining quality in certain areas.”

“We have been fortunate twice to be named one of the top 50 cardiovascular programs in the US and I’d like to be on that list every year,” Lord said. “And some day I’d like to see Martin Health be the one that bumps Cleveland Clinic off – and as an affiliate of theirs if that should happen I’m sure they’d be proud.”

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