No one wants to hear they have a diagnosis of heart failure. If they do, the long-standing Heart Failure program at Billings Clinic is trained and dedicated to delivering world-class care. As the only multi-disciplinary team in Montana and the region, led by two advanced heart failure and transplant physicians, they are here to partner with you as you embark on a recovery journey. It is what makes them stand out to both patients and other practices in the area.
“We are the only heart failure and transplant physicians in the state, as well as the only multidisciplinary congestive heart failure clinic in the state,” says Billings Clinic heart failure specialist and Director of Mechanical Circulatory Support, Juan Pablo Rodriguez-Escudero M.D. “There are things that we do here that no other clinic does in the entire state of Montana and northern Wyoming”.
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At Billings Clinic, the heart failure team can diagnose and care for patients with difficult and advanced cardiomyopathies and patients who need short-term and long-term mechanical circulatory support. It shares care of patients who have left ventricular assisted devices (LVADS) or patients who received heart transplants from centers around the state of Montana. This allows patients to not have to consistently travel or relocate to these areas for care.
The program also has the capacity to monitor patients’ heart function wirelessly and address problems before they become more serious through a CardioMEMS™ Heart Failure (HF) System. This device can help patients to stay out of the hospital and remain healthier for longer.
The heart failure specialists and the supporting team can care for patients with heart failure for diagnoses such as Fabry’s, Amyloidosis, Sarcoidosis and Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy. In addition, Dr. Rodriguez Escudero and the team diagnose and manage patients with pulmonary artery hypertension or high blood pressure in the lungs due to heart failure and other causes.
When a patient is enrolled in the heart failure program, they can expect the most comprehensive care possible to treat their condition.
“Once we establish a diagnosis with the patient, we dialogue with the patient’s physician to decide on the right treatment plan. It’s an end-to-end process with the patient, and we are there every step of the way,” explains heart failure specialist and medical director Kristin Scott-Tillery, M.D., at Billings Clinic.
The Heart Failure program's goals for care include improving physical and emotional well-being, decreasing admissions to the hospital and providing education and resources for the patient to be able to be an active partner in their care.
Developing an individualized treatment plan for every patient that walks through their doors is just a part of the process for heart failure specialists. Once a plan is developed, the team, including RNs, APPs, Pharmacists and Social Workers, must do regular check-ins — in-person or virtually — and testing to ensure the treatment plan is working.
“We can care for our patients over a camera in their local clinic or in the comfort of their own home on their computers. “Our Telemedicine system is incredible in that it allows us to hear the patient’s heartbeat through the software,” says Dr. Scott-Tillery.
In addition to follow-up and routine check-ins, the heart failure specialists work with other cardiologists including electrophysiologists who help restore proper electricity to the heart or place pacemakers that can strengthen the heart, interventionalists and structuralists who can improve blood flow to the heart or repair valves and structures within the heart. Billings Clinic has the technology and expertise to diagnose and treat these. All of this is facilitated by the highly-trained specialists who lead the heart failure team.
Patients are at the heart of everything
For Dr. Scott-Tillery, the joy of working closely with patients and their families is what fuels her to get up every single day and make a difference through her work with the heart failure department.
“These patients are the sickest of the sick, and our team works with them so closely and frequently to keep them out of the hospital. For me, that’s the kind of relationship I want to have with my patients – I know them, and they know me,” says Dr. Scott-Tillery.
The close bond the heart failure team develops with patients is what makes the department stand out to patients and providers alike. While it can be stressful to work with life-threatening conditions, it is the commitment to the patients’ long-term health that keeps the nurses and heart specialists going, even when things get difficult or overwhelming.
For Dr. Rodriguez-Escudero, being a part of the Billings Clinic heart failure team has personal significance. “I want to have an impact on these patients in this community and the region. And at Billings Clinic, I can have that effect through the work that I do here.”
To learn more about the Billings Clinic Heart Failure Program, visit billingsclinic.com.