A visit to the ER is a rarity for 73-year old John Myers*. But when symptoms of a heart attack prompted him to check into the emergency department at Trillium Health Partners, he got his results within hours, thanks to Cardiac DART (Direct Accelerated Response Team).
Launched in November 2013, Cardiac DART provides patients with quicker access to specialists so they are assessed, tested and treated without being admitted to the hospital.
“The program was designed to avoid unnecessary admissions to a hospital bed,” says Elena Holt, Director of Cardiac Health at Trillium Health Partners. “It provides patients access to the most appropriate care in a timely manner.”
Ideal candidates for Cardiac DART are patients who are experiencing some type of heart related symptoms, such as chest pains, heart failure or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), but who are not having a heart attack. Once assessed by the ER physician, they can be referred to the Cardiac DART for further tests to determine if there’s a risk of heart problems in the future.
Cardiac DART is staffed with a nurse practitioner and a cardiologist, who provide specialized care closer to the door so patients can get fast access to testing and quicker results. “We’ve simply eliminated some of the steps to care, so patients can get their answers faster, which reduces their anxiety,” says Holt.
It worked well for John Myers who had been experiencing heart-related symptoms. When his symptoms became worse he decided to go to the ER to find out exactly what he was experiencing. He was diagnosed as an ideal candidate for Cardiac DART, where it was determined that his situation was not grave as he’d anticipated.
“This is a common situation,” says Elena Holt. “Patients aren’t really sure what they are experiencing, and Cardiac DART allows for early access to highly a skilled cardiac nurse practitioner and cardiologist to determine appropriate testing and treatment, or if they can be discharged with future follow up.”
First piloted at Credit Valley Hospital, Cardiac DART delivered results quickly, reducing the wait time from approximately 20 hours to just under five hours. A higher number of patients avoided admissions to a hospital bed, given the ability to access specific cardiac testing without admission.
While it’s still in the early phases of implementation across the hospital sites of Trillium Health Partners, the results are positive. “We’ve definitely seen the demand for cardiac beds decrease,” says Holt. “And while it’s still a work in progress, the commitment of our nurse practitioners and cardiologists at all sites have made the success of this program possible.”
John Myers and his wife Ann were very pleased with the outcome of their visit to the ER at Trillium Health Partners and said they felt relaxed for the first time in days because they knew they were in good hands. John has been put on the list for follow up so the hospital can monitor his situation.
The Mississauga couple may not be aware of the extensive planning and process that went into developing the groundbreaking program that helped them through a difficult time last December. But when they followed up with a letter to the hospital to express their gratitude, describing the Cardiac DART team as their ‘angels’, it is an indication that the program is on the right track.
*Names have been changed to protect patient privacy.