The future of cardiovascular care: A conversation with Matt Ducsik

Doctor with innovative cardiovascular technology

[3 MIN READ]

This conversation originally aired on Becker’s Health Podcast and the Q&As below are paraphrased from the conversation.

In this article:

  • Cardiovascular care benefited from digital innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Learn what whole person care can look like from Matt Ducsik, Associate Vice President of Cardiovascular and Clinical Program Services at Providence.
  • Integrated care at Providence balances community access with specialized care for urgent and complex surgeries.
  • The future of care is rooted in connecting with community partners.

Matt Ducsik, Associate Vice President of Cardiovascular and Clinical Program Services at Providence, spoke with the Becker’s Healthcare team about his journey to the cardiovascular program and how the COVID-19 pandemic drove innovation in the delivery of cardiovascular care.  

Matt’s journey to Providence has quite a few twists and turns. He started in healthcare in 1995, working with patients who suffered from eating disorders and Seasonal Affective Disorder. While a positive and fulfilling experience, Matt decided to look for vocational opportunities outside of behavioral health. With a master’s in public health, Matt began working in healthcare IT and ultimately discovered a passion for and commitment to cardiovascular health with Providence in Portland, Oregon.

Q: What are the top priorities for cardiovascular teams at Providence?

Matt: Our goal for the Providence Heart Institute is to live at the intersection of destination medicine and value-based care. We prioritize that work in two ways. The first way is through continuous improvement that we try to achieve through our constant work.

What does this mean for our cardiology patients?

We work as a system with the local programs (everyone from providers to pharmacists) to try and manage the use of high-cost drugs and the adoption of new technologies—we want to be strategic about when and where we adopt those things because we want to have the best patient outcomes in a way that is affordable to all.

How cardiovascular care is delivered

The second way we prioritize our work is looking at the way cardiovascular care is delivered. Rather than establishing separate, specialty care centers in each area, we are building integrated networks of care across our 7-state system and making collaborative decisions with our local physicians and administrators. This creates a highly integrated whole that best serves the most patients, with the best care that is tailored best to their individual needs.

Q: What is an example of integrated care at Providence?

Matt: I have a great example to share. A man was visiting some relatives and he started to feel sick, so he went to the local Providence hospital and had a cardiology exam. The doctor discovered the man was having a ventricular septal defect (VSD), which is basically a hole in the wall between the heart’s lower chambers. VSDs can be a congenital heart defect or occur in adults after surgery or a heart attack.

The hospital where the man was admitted had a very good cardiac surgery program, but repairing the hole is a rare, highly specialized procedure that should be performed by a surgeon who has done a lot of them, and the surgery should take place at a center that has the specialized teams who can anticipate and respond to any issues.

The local cardiologist and surgeon who diagnosed the man called the Chief of Cardiac Surgery at our specialized cardiac surgery program that was 60 miles away, and had a good, team-based collaboration to determine the best care for the patient. The man was quickly transferred, underwent a very successful surgery and was back with his family 5 days later.

This is why we want to build these integrated networks. Our communities need access to traditional and specialized care, so we focus on providing foundational cardiovascular care close to home, but we can also deliver highly specialized care in the right setting.

Q: How did the COVID-19 pandemic change cardiovascular care?

Matt: The COVID-19 pandemic changed care delivery for the better. For the cardiovascular teams, that’s meant virtual cardiac rehab, remote monitoring, and digital innovation to ease access for patients and providers.

Q: What challenges do the cardiovascular teams face today after COVID-19?

Matt: I do think that, in some ways, Providence being the hospital that took care of the first known COVID-19 patient helped us by giving us more lead time to learn and adapt in a rapidly changing environment.

Whole person care

One challenge we face is integrating our experience in cardiovascular with the concept of whole person care. At the end of the day, we are treating the person and not just the heart and people are complex. People with atrial fibrillation, or heart arrhythmia, might also have sleep apnea; people with valvular disease may also be malnourished. Additionally, some communities have barriers to access and public health services.

These are complex care challenges, but we need to be able to work together, within our system and with our communities. This is why we challenge ourselves to take an integrated approach to caring for the whole person.

Supporting the poor and vulnerable

Another challenge we face is using our current facilities to maintain our mission. Providence has a strong mission and part of that is to support the poor and vulnerable. We need to make sure we are better able to support those people.

We want to deliver equitable, high-quality care. We can fulfill this mission by building networks that provide most services closest to home and then complex and specialized care at destination centers.

Q: What does the future of care look like?

Matt: We are now able to invest in technology that increases access to care by putting us in more neighborhoods and populations that had trouble accessing care previously. We are more intentional than ever in reaching out to our community partners, to work with those who have already been serving the communities for years. In order to truly grow to serve more people, we have to be the best place to get care and to give care.

When we think about taking care of more people, we think of it in four major areas:

  • Creating better access for patients to our clinics through virtual visits utilizing digital innovation and telehealth
  • Delivering best-in-class outcomes and experiences to create destination centers of excellence
  • Engaging our community partners to come into networks (so we can deliver affordable costs)
  • Build capacity through clinical optimization by working with community partners

What does this look like in practice? Well, Providence invests in new technology and in connecting providers across our system to collaborate on research projects or to provide a forum to discuss best practices for taking care of people.

Q: Any advice for emerging leaders in healthcare?

Matt: It is important to remember that behind every data point we look at or talk about are humans. They are patients who experienced a cardiac event, families who lost parents and grandparents, and caregivers working on holidays.  We want to focus on world class care, but we can’t lose sight of the human connection.

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The heart specialists at Providence combine advanced expertise and the latest techniques to protect your health. The Providence Valve Center is the largest and longest-running structural heart program in the state of Oregon. With Providence Express Care Virtual, you can access a full range of healthcare services. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory

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Related resources 

High tech equipment helps in heart surgeries

Heart health glossary: Here are the terms you should know

Living beyond congenital heart disease: A story of care and motherhood

Making lives better: A conversation with Amy Compton-Phillips

Will COVID-19 be the catalyst for creating a more sustainable healthcare system?

About the Author

The Providence Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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