Enhanced Cardiac Access

When it's your heart... it just can't wait.

Three years ago, Capital Cardiology Associates (CCA) launched its Enhanced Cardiac Access program. Located within its Corporate Woods location, Enhanced Cardiac Access (ECA) provides same day evaluations of patients with potential cardiac symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations.

“We started the ECA after noticing how many patients we were seeing in the local hospitals’ Emergency Departments who could have been evaluated more rapidly had they been in our office,” says Dr. Lance Sullenberger, a cardiologist with Capital Cardiology Associates. Many of the patients presenting to the ED with chest pain or shortness of breath get admitted to Observation Status within the hospital. There, they may spend up to 48 hours completing testing. “In our office,” reports Dr. Sullenberger, “we control the testing, and thus we as cardiologists are able to complete the workup more rapidly, usually within a few hours. In most cases, patients are able to be sent home.”

Dr. Lance Sullenberger, Co-Medical Director of the Cardiovascular CT Scanning Suite at Capital Cardiology Associates

Dr. Sullenberger and his partners created the ECA by converting part of their office space into a rapid evaluation unit. “We hired a nurse with cardiac experience, invested in telemetry units found within hospitals, and set up a few patient bays. We then spread the word to our patients, the local primary care physicians, and the community that we could see patients with active symptoms.” Patients are typically referred by their primary care physicians, they walk-in, or they are call the CCA office. The patient evaluated in the ECA is initially triaged by a cardiac nurse; labs and an electrocardiogram are performed; and the patient is then seen by a Board-certified cardiologist. Patient evaluations may include exercise stress testing, nuclear stress testing, echocardiograms, or CT scanning of the heart, all performed within the CCA office. “Ninety-five percent of the patients evaluated within the ECA go home within a few hours. Only about 5% need to be admitted to the hospital, and when they do, we admit them directly to the cardiac floor rather than sending them to the ER,” says Dr. Sullenberger.

(From Right to Left) Dr. Sullenberger, the ECA nursing staff, and Dr. Jeffrey Uzzilia.

Enhanced Cardiac Access has been a huge success for the medical community as well as Capital Cardiology Associates. “We have already expanded once and are expanding again this summer. In our 3rd year, we counted just under 3500 patient visits to ECA.” According to Dr. Sullenberger, patients like the ECA because the cardiac evaluation is more rapid than that of the ED, and the copay is an office copay rather than the more expensive ED or hospital copay. Primary Care Physicians appreciate the ECA because it serves as an alternative to the ED for their patients with symptoms needing a more urgent cardiac evaluation than a routine cardiology appointment. Insurers like the ECA because, by avoiding unnecessary hospital or ED visits, it lowers the per patient total cost of care to the medical community by thousands of dollars.

Capital Cardiology Associates is the premier cardiology specialty group within the Capital Region. Capital Cardiology has two office locations in Corporate Woods in Albany and on Burdett Ave in Troy and cares for patients within the hospitals of Albany Medical Center, St. Peter’s Hospital, and Samaritan Hospital.