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February 10, 2021

Cardiovascular Institute Unites Patient Care and Research

Cardiovascular Institute Unites Patient Care and Research

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in Indiana and around the world, but a new initiative from IU Health and the IU School of Medicine aims to reduce this alarming statistic.

Such an undertaking requires a monumental effort, but IU Health and the IU School of Medicine have demonstrated that they’re up for the challenge by creating the Cardiovascular Institute and recruiting cardiologist and physician-scientist Subha Raman, MD to lead it.

Dr. Raman joined IU Health in February 2020 as VP, Cardiovascular Services, director of the Cardiovascular Institute and chief of Cardiology for the IU School of Medicine.

Attracted by the opportunity to lead an institute that brings together many disciplines and talents under one umbrella, Dr. Raman looks forward to developing programs that promote cardiovascular health and reduce cardiovascular disease.

Her team includes people from every region across IU Health including cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, vascular surgeons, cardiovascular radiologists, technologists and nurses — plus members of the pharmacy, quality, supply chain and clinical effectiveness teams.

“Our team, #OneIUCV, represents all the disciplines needed to address specific conditions that people come to us for,” says Dr. Raman. “It takes a lot of dedicated people working together to deliver great outcomes.”

In late spring, the Institute is launching the nation’s “first-of-its-kind" Heart Attack Prevention Program in partnership with IU Health’s Population Health team.

Historically, the only way to prevent heart disease was to focus on risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. While those measures remain important, Raman believes an even greater impact can be made by taking advantage of new technology that directly and non-invasively measures early signs of the disease that leads to heart attacks, including atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup of the coronary arteries. The approach is similar to using a colonoscopy as a direct way to measure early signs of disease that can lead to colon cancer. Importantly, the new approach links this precise measurement of coronary atherosclerosis to a new treatment algorithm developed with the American College of Cardiology tailored to various stages of plaque buildup.

“We can prevent tragic outcomes from advanced colon cancer through early detection and treatment,” says Dr. Raman. “We now have that technology to do the same thing to prevent heart attacks through early detection and treatment of coronary atherosclerosis.”

Using artificial intelligence-based software coupled to a CT coronary angiogram, even the earliest signs of plaque in the coronary arteries can be identified to estimate an individual’s level of heart attack risk.

The Heart Attack Prevention Program is expected to launch in the second quarter of 2021 with plans to recruit 1,000 IU Health employees to enroll in the five-year program. More details about the application and enrollment process will be provided near the program’s launch date.

“We want to keep our team — the people that make it possible for us to take great care of our communities — as healthy as possible,” says Dr. Raman.

Furthermore, working alongside the Population Health team and initially offering this program to IU Health employees will help demonstrate that by preventing heart attacks, we will reduce our system’s healthcare costs. It is estimated that the roughly $2.5 million spent on this program will save at least $3 million of what IU Health spends today on treating heart attacks — a savings above and beyond the cost of the program.

To be eligible for the program, participants must receive their health insurance through the IU Health employee plan, be 45 years or older, have an IU Health primary physician and have no cardiovascular diagnosis or prior heart attack. Known risk factors or family history aren’t necessary to participate.

“The thing that’s tough for me is that we can’t offer it to everybody initially,” Dr. Raman explains. “We want to offer this service to more Hoosiers,” she says, while acknowledging philanthropy will be essential in expanding innovative programs at the Cardiovascular Institute, including the Heart Attack Prevention Program.

“Nothing can catalyze a project like philanthropy,” Dr. Raman says. “When you have people in the community who understand the possibilities, progress moves so much faster. As a health system, we’re at our best when we act in partnership with those we serve.”

If you would like to financially support cardiac care or learn more about the Cardiovascular Institute, please contact Ashley Strickland, senior development officer at IU Health Foundation. She can be reached by email at astrickland1@iuhealth.org or by phone at 317.264.9438.

Because this program is not yet accepting applications, we encourage you to reach out to your primary care physician for all health-related questions.

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