HONOLULU -- Though you may not know it, Tripler Army Medical Center is making it easier for patients to take advantage of the robust and comprehensive set of heart services available to the Pacific region.

Tripler has always offered adult cardiology, pediatric cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery services, but in October 2011, the three were linked together to help patients and improve their access to care. Collectively, the clinics are known as Heart Services.

"Before, patients would sometimes have to call several numbers for something as simple as a transfer between hospitals," explained Lt. Col. John Verghese, chief of Cardiac Surgery, Tripler Army Medical Center. "We now operate a single pager system. (It allows) a member of our staff to get straight back with them."

Currently, the Heart Services team is working on reaching out to their beneficiaries who may not be aware of what services are available to them. Eligible patients include all Veterans' Affairs beneficiaries, active duty service members and their families, and retired service members and their families.

"Retirees oftentimes have other insurance and TRICARE is secondary for them," Verghese said. "(We're finding) they just don't know about the level and quality of services available here at Tripler."

In addition to reaching out to beneficiaries who may not know what services are available, the Heart Services team has also been working on making it easier for prospective and current patients to understand how the Heart Services team works and what their experience will be.

"We started the website so we (could provide a comprehensive) heart education for patients," Verghese said. "We wanted to help patients know what to expect when they get here, and what resources are available for them, for everything from post-surgery nutrition to the phone number of the Tripler Trolley."

Heart Services at Tripler are not available only to eligible beneficiaries in Hawaii. Approximately half of the patients seen are from across the region, to include American Samoa, Guam, Japan, Korea and civilian patients admitted through the Pacific Island Health Care Program, which is a federally funded grant that provides care for a diverse patient population from various Pacific Basin countries.

"We are very proud of the host of services we offer here at Tripler," said Lt. Col. Matthew Studer, chief, pediatric cardiology, TAMC. "We are always looking to advance the care and service we offer to patients and military dependents."

Services Available
Tripler's adult cardiology clinic provides a wide spectrum of cardiovascular care to include evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disorders to include coronary artery disease, rhythm disturbances, chronic heart failure, adult congenital heart disease and a variety of other medical conditions affecting the cardiovascular system.

The pediatric cardiology clinic provides a wide range of cardiac care for infants and children with congenital and acquired heart disease along with services for adult patients born with congenital heart disease. The clinic also manages an extensive fetal heart program that is focused primarily on the evaluation of the fetal heart through ultrasonography. Pregnant mothers are seen during their second and/or third trimester. Diagnostic and interventional heart catheterizations are also performed, which includes hemodynamic assessments of patients with congenital heart disease and percutaneous closures of selective defects.

Approximately five times a year, the pediatric cardiology clinic partners with the Heart Institute at Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego, and Kapiolani Children's Hospital and Straub Hospital to offer both heart surgery and heart catheterizations during "Heart Week."

The cardiothoracic surgery clinic provides the following surgeries: coronary artery bypass (CABG), valve, aortic, cardiac tumor removal, thoracic and atrial fibrillation. To the extent possible, minimally invasive techniques are used and patients and their families are educated on how to manage during the postoperative period and briefed on the different agencies available for additional support.