Group Health's Coordinated Care Makes the Difference
Jim Shuttleworth, 60, works out daily, hikes mountain trails with loaded packs, and rows boats as a fly fishing guide. Despite his fitness and activity levels, he started struggling with shortness of breath in the fall of 2002. Following an EKG at Group Health cardiology in Redmond, he was immediately whisked into quadruple bypass surgery. Since that time, Shuttleworth has been under the care of Lou Zibelli, MD, Group Health's chief of cardiology.
"I stay away from greasy foods, I stay very fit, I maintain my prescriptions, and I go back for regular checkups," Shuttleworth said.
Even so, Shuttleworth was running his fishing guide service in Baja, Mexico, in June 2007 when he started having trouble breathing again. His wife contacted Dr. Zibelli who sent him to get an EKG at a hospital near Los Angeles.
"They told me I had had a heart attack and had atrial fibrillation, and they wanted to admit me," Shuttleworth said. "But I wanted to go home to Group Health. They know me personally there. They have my medical history."
Strong patient relationships like the one he has with Jim Shuttleworth are what make Group Health such a unique place to work, says Dr. Zibelli.
A Coordinated Approach to CareA cardiologist for nearly 30 years, Dr. Zibelli was at the heart of the planning that now connects Group Health's clinical and administrative services the cardiology "service line."
Whether treatment is needed for heart attacks, angina, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, cardiac arrhythmia or congestive heart failure, Group Health's internal patient care coordination is seamless, Dr. Zibelli said. Primary, specialty, surgery, and pharmacy professionals work closely together by assessing patients' online charts and test results, and by communicating with one another by phone and by e-mail. The teams share the online reading of echocardiograms and electrocardiograms for all patients region wide, entering their reports into one electronic records management system.
"There are many advantages to a coordinated system like ours," Dr. Zibelli said. "When a risk factor is identified or a new drug is released, we can identify all Group Health patients in our database who are at risk or who can benefit, and we can implement a treatment plan for all of those patients. Our system makes it very easy to apply evidence-based strategies and we have improved health outcomes as a result. All of this allows us to provide optimal care to our patients."
Last November, Group Health did another echocardiogram on Shuttleworth. "I have an appointment with a surgeon to give me a defibrillator and pacemaker combination," Shuttleworth said. "Being physically conditioned doesn't mean you don't have heart disease. But they have taken really good care of me at Group Health. I couldn't be more grateful to Dr. Zibelli and his medical team."