The leading cause of death in West Virginia is heart disease. To improve cardiovascular health in the Mountain State, the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy and WVU Heart and Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure Program were selected to receive a Million Hearts® Health Equity Implementation $50,000 award from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD).
Million Hearts®, a collaboration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is a national initiative to prevent one million cardiovascular disease incidents, such as heart attacks and strokes, within five years. The NACDD funding opportunity focused on providing resources for project implementation from January to July 2023.
“This initiative made great impact on access to guideline-directed medical therapy for heart failure for West Virginians, especially those who live in rural areas and cannot come to in-person visits,” Kazuhiko Kido, PharmD, project lead and clinical associate professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, said. “We performed telehealth visits and reached out to patients throughout the state and helped optimize life-saving medications for heart failure.”
The program enrolled 172 patients receiving care through seven Community Care of West Virginia sites and WVU Medicine clinics in Morgantown, Bridgeport, Summersville and Wheeling. Patients were given self-measured blood pressure devices and scales and received counseling on guideline-directed medical therapy. Over the six-month project period, patients completed telehealth visits and monitoring to measure recommended use of guideline-directed medical therapy and its effect on hospitalization. At the conclusion of the project, the team found that telehealth-guided medication optimization initiatives improved the use of life saving heart failure medications.
The interdisciplinary team from WVU Health Sciences included George Sokos, MD, a professor in the School of Medicine and director of the advanced heart failure program, and partners in the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute, who helped implement the strategies in rural clinic sites across the state through its West Virginia Practice-Based Research Network.
“A significant number of heart failure patients have issues with getting the appropriate heart failure care due to lack of access to the guideline-directed medication therapy,” Kido said. “Thus, our team collaborated with Community Care of West Virginia to provide heart failure education and toolkits in advance. Thanks to the collaboration with the research network, our team was able to reach heart failure patients who cannot access special care through WVU Medicine’s heart failure service and improve health disparities in heart failure care in West Virginia.”
To help reach its goal of saving one million lives, Million Hearts® prioritized strategies for building healthy communities and optimizing care by focusing on specific populations experiencing inequities, including people who live in rural areas or other ‘access deserts.’
“We are thrilled to be able to provide a truly multidisciplinary approach to care of heart failure patients throughout the state and surrounding regions,” Sokos said. “We believe that patients deserve the highest level of care no matter where they live or how far away they are from a major medical center.”
According to America’s Health Rankings, which analyzes multiple data sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately half of West Virginians live in rural areas. Nearly all of the state’s 55 counties are also designated as Health Professions Shortage Areas and/or Medically Underserved Areas by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration.
“Our team hopes to publish this pilot initiative by early next year and implement a similar model elsewhere in the state as well as in other states,” Kido said. “The positive results in our pilot initiative will lead to further implementation of the collaborative heart failure care between heart failure special care and primary care services.”
Director of Marketing and Communications
WVU School of Pharmacy
Angela S. Jones
Corporate Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs