Don't delay heart care: your health can't wait

Sep 10, 2020

Patient safety protocols in place at Abrazo hospitals, doctors’ offices

PHOENIX – Abrazo Health is reminding everyone that heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States and is urging people not to delay seeking heart care at a hospital or doctor’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our message is ‘Your heart health can’t wait,’” said Timothy Byrne, MD, medical director of cardiac services for Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. “It’s important for people to know that our hospitals and doctors’ offices have the appropriate protocols in place to make your visit safe. Patients should feel safe and comfortable in any Abrazo facility or physician practice.”

A July 10, 2020, research report by Accenture found that 70 percent of patients surveyed had deferred or cancelled medical treatment during the pandemic. Patients said they were afraid to risk exposure to COVID-19 by going to their healthcare providers for care.

Patient safety remains Abrazo Health’s most important priority during the pandemic. This commitment to safety includes the adoption of protective policies and pre-operative protocols that originate in Abrazo-affiliated physician practices and offices and ensuring that non-COVID patients are kept separate from COVID-positive patients at all times. Also, care teams at the Abrazo hospitals meet frequently to exchange and adopt best practices focused on maintaining patient safety.

safe care graphicThe numbers of COVID-19 patients being treated at Abrazo hospitals has gone down significantly in recent weeks. “July 17 was the peak for COVID-19 infection and hospital bed occupancy in Maricopa County. Those numbers have fallen precipitously and hospitals are seeing a continued reduction in hospitalized COVID patients,” said Dr. Byrne.

Delaying heart care could lead to significant complications for patients with many types of cardiovascular conditions – not just those needing emergency care, but also for patients who postpone more routine inpatient procedures or screenings.

Dr. Byrne gave the example of a patient requiring a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a less invasive procedure to replace a diseased aortic valve. “The minute you start having symptoms related to your aortic valve, the clock starts ticking,” he said. “This type of procedure can be life-saving.”

Patients who experience chest pain should not delay going to be tested. The pain could be a symptom of atherosclerotic heart disease, aortic dissection or pulmonary embolism. “You may have chest pain and think you’re fine, but any one of these syndromes is potentially life-threatening,” said Dr. Byrne.

Each year, more than 600,000 Americans die from heart disease, making it the No. I killer of men and women in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s one in four deaths in the nation.

In an emergency, call 911 for first responders to assess the problem and provide transport to an ER. For a referral to an Abrazo cardiologist, visit or call 1-855-93-HEART (1-855-934-3278).

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