How to Choose a Heart Specialist

by Allen J. Taylor, MD, Chairman of Cardiology, MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute
February 26, 2020

Most primary care physicians do an excellent job of managing common risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or blood pressure. When you’re concerned about more serious heart issues, however, consider scheduling a visit with a heart specialist. Whether you’re looking for a new cardiologist or heart surgeon, or you’re interested in a second opinion on your health situation, here are some ways to find a qualified specialist in your area.

1) Ask your primary care physician to start.

Most general healthcare professionals interact frequently with cardiologists in their area and can recommend someone who has the right experience for your particular need. Don’t rely on friends and family members necessarily, as different cardiologists specialize in different types of heart health problems.

2) Look for a medical center that has a program dedicated to your specific heart health issue.

This is especially important if you have an advanced heart condition or require a surgical procedure. Dedicated programs are typically staffed by healthcare teams with extensive experience, special credentials, and the most up-to-date resources and treatments for your care. These programs also tend to offer an integrated team approach. That means everyone—from physicians and nurses to pharmacists to psychologists and social workers—works together on your behalf, all within the same organization. This collaboration can make a significant difference in how well your condition is monitored and managed.

You can search online for dedicated programs at hospitals in your area. MedStar Health offers several programs in the DC/Maryland/Virginia region dedicated to specific heart health conditions. You can also look for hospitals that have received special recognition for their heart programs or accreditations by the Joint Commission, the nation’s largest independent healthcare evaluation organization. MedStar Washington Hospital Center and others in our hospital network have received several of these quality-of-care recognitions.

@TaylorMHVICard has some advice when it comes to choosing a heart specialist in your area. https://bit.ly/2Vl8fuW via @MedStarWHC

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3) Make an appointment to meet a specialist or surgeon.

Most healthcare practices are happy to schedule an office visit with you for a new patient consultation. Come with specific questions, and don’t be shy about asking them. Healthcare professionals today are used to patients and caregivers who want to be involved and make informed decisions about their medical care. By having an upfront conversation with a new specialist, you can assess your personal comfort level with their expertise and their communication style. Both should be a good match for you.

Some questions you might ask:

  • How can you help my particular problem?
  • How much experience do you have with it?
  • What can I expect?
  • What level of expertise and resources does this center offer?
  • Who else would be on my care team here, and how do you interact with those healthcare professionals and my own primary care physician?

4) If you need a specific procedure, ask how many the surgeon has performed.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story. But a heart specialist or surgeon who has performed a particular procedure on many patients is more likely to be skilled at it and experienced in any challenges it may present.

You may also be able to find information on a hospital’s volume of procedures by requesting a copy of its annual “capabilities” or “performance” report. This report typically provides information about the number of procedures that have been performed, the outcomes, how well the hospital is rated by outside organizations, and more. You may be able to find this information on the hospital’s web site (see the 2019-2020 report for MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute).

MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is prepared to help patients with needs along the full spectrum of heart-related issues. We encourage you to request an appointment with our heart care team, so we can discuss your heart health and recommendations that best meet your personal needs.

Trust your heart to experts.

Schedule time with a specialist.

Call 202-644-9526 or  Request an Appointment

Category: Healthy Living     Tags: Find a doctorHeart and vascularheart health issuesheart specialist