Home is where the heart is


Early one morning last November, Scott Taylor and his wife, Arline, of River Falls were preparing to head out for their daily gym workout when Scott felt his heart racing.

Arline promptly drove him to the Emergency Department (ED) at River Falls Area Hospital, just one and a half miles from their home.

The ED doctor suspected Taylor had a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation. Taylor had tests and talked with a cardiologist from the Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute, part of Allina Health, who sees patients weekly in River Falls.

Tests showed the diagnosis was correct and Taylor needed surgery. Taylor had surgery at United Hospital in late December and was discharged six days later. He then completed a 12-week cardiac rehabilitation program at River Falls Area Hospital.

"My cardiologist says my heart is now fully functional," said Taylor, now 71. "Sometimes I stop and think, 'How did I get through this?' It was the system and the people at Allina Health that made it work."

Coordination is key

That "system" is highly coordinated care that enables western Wisconsin residents to receive sophisticated services close to home, said Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute cardiologist Thomas Biggs, MD.

"Patients needing surgery see their primary care doctor and one of the Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute cardiologists in River Falls, have their procedure at United Hospital, then return home for rehabilitation and regular follow-up care."

"The partnership between doctors at the River Falls Medical Clinic and specialists such as the Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute cardiologists means Allina Health can provide heart patients with care that's seamless from start to finish," said family physician Christopher Tashjian, MD, president of the River Falls Medical Clinic.

"The hallmarks of the program are teamwork and good communication to achieve the best outcomes for our patients."

Easy access to records

With Allina Health's electronic health record-keeping system, every member of Taylor's medical team could easily access his records from any location.

"It was comforting to know that no one needed to schlep paper copies of Scott's records back and forth. It was all there on the computer," said Arline.

That same computerized system was helpful for Taylor's cardiac rehabilitation therapists, said Shari Durch, LAT, RCEP, an athletic trainer and exercise physiologist at Courage Kenny® Rehabilitation Institute-River Falls.

"Even before Scott started rehabilitation, I could do a chart review to understand his needs," Durch said. "It really helps us stay on top of a patient's care."

The road to recovery

During his cardiac rehabilitation, Taylor gradually increased his cardiovascular fitness, strength and endurance. His therapist sent progress reports to his primary care doctor and cardiologist. If a care question arises,therapists can talk with the United Heart & Vascular Clinic cardiologists during their regular visits to River Falls, explained Durch.

It's been a long road for Taylor, but his heart is once again working normally. That's given him more time to enjoy the simple pleasures he loves.

The couple, married 51 years, has five grandchildren and recently celebrated the birth of their first great-grandchild.

"All my grandchildren are doing great," Taylor said. "And thanks to Allina Health, I can continue to be part of their lives."