Commentary

Article

How Vanderbilt's Women's Heart Center Is Bridging the Gender Gap in Heart Health

Author(s):

Kathryn Lindley, MD, FACC, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, emphasizes the importance of bringing heart health care to patients and meeting them where they are.

Kathryn Lindley, MD, FACC, associate professor of medicine and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explains the Women's Heart Center's initiatives in multidisciplinary care, remote monitoring, telehealth, and collaborative research to address the gender gap in heart health research and clinical care.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Transcript

As director of Vanderbilt's Women's Heart Center, what strategies and initiatives have you implemented to help address the gender gap in heart health research and clinical care?

We've really taken a pretty thoughtful approach to this. I would say, clinically, one of the most important things that we have done is partnered with people in other subspecialties to make sure that patients are really getting consistent care, and that all of their doctors and their team is communicating with one another so that we can really provide a more comprehensive approach to how we're taking care of sometimes very complex patients. We have multidisciplinary clinics where doctors from different subspecialties come together to take care of the patients all in 1 setting, so that it makes it easier for the patient to get that care and we can make sure that we're all communicating well and providing a unified front to the care.

Other things that we've been really thoughtful about are just ways that we can make it easier for people to get care even at home. We've been employing a lot of remote monitoring, especially for managing blood pressure, and we also do a fair amount of telehealth as well. Sometimes it's much easier to be able to just send in your blood pressure through an app or take a telehealth appointment from your kitchen, rather than trying to take a day off of work to come in to get your blood pressure checked or to see your doctor. So, just thinking about ways that we can really bring care to patients where they're at, rather than asking them to come to us.

Lastly, I would say from a research perspective, we're really focused on advancing women's heart health research here. We're partnering together with people in cardiology and OBGYN to do some really large studies to better understand how and why women develop certain types of heart disease. We're trying to make those clinical studies very accessible for women to make it easier for them to actually be a part of the study and manage the rest of their busy lives.

Have you seen any positive changes since implementing these strategies?

Certainly, I think the communication is dramatically improved. I think both the clinicians and the patients are feeling that by taking this team approach. All of the members of the team are really talking to one another and coming up with a unified plan for patient care, and I think that the patients are also noticing that. Just from some early research we've done, we're already starting to see signals that some of this approach to the way we manage high blood pressure care [and] postpartum care has definitely improved the ability for us to get information about people's blood pressure and treat them more consistently than if we used more traditional methods of health care delivery.

Are there any other initiatives in the works that have yet to be implemented?

We actually have several pretty exciting initiatives that we expect to come online here within the next few months. One of those initiatives is a new cardio-rheumatology clinic. As we talked about earlier, women are really disproportionately affected by autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, and these can have really serious effects on their heart health. So, we have experts in rheumatology and cardiology who are coming together to develop a multidisciplinary clinic to take care of patients with these autoimmune disorders who have or are at risk for developing heart disease.

And we have another really exciting clinic that's going to hopefully be online in the next several months, which is a multidisciplinary menopausal heart health clinic where we can really provide cardiovascular screening and counseling to women who are approaching or have recently gone through menopause, help them think about the safety and risk of hormone replacement therapy to make sure that they're having good quality of life, and we're treating all of their menopausal symptoms. [It's] really just kind of a team-based approach to think about how we can make women feel better and live longer and healthier.

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