VIDEO: Creating an integrated heart team program in central Texas


Charles D. Fraser, Jr., MD, executive director of the new Institute for Cardiovascular Health is a collaboration between Ascension Texas and the University of Texas at Austin and its Dell Medical School. This new, state-of-the-art cardiology program fully integrates all the cardiac subspecialties to create a comprehensive heart team approach in treating patients. 

He discusses how they are building this new cardiac program, why, and what they hope build. Located in Austin, the new institute plans to operate as a world-class, integrated academic system of heart care convening medical professionals, students and researchers. The institute will allow medical professionals to treat patients in every phase of life together with the existing services provided through the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease, also led by Fraser.

Fraser is a professor of pediatrics and surgery and the founding chief of pediatric and congenital heart surgery for the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease. It has a clinical affiliation between Dell Children’s Medical Center and UT Health Austin, Dell Med’s clinical practice.

The program treats patients from pediatric congenital heart issues through adult. It is the first comprehensive, integrated cardiology program in central Texas. The new institute will operate as a world-class, integrated academic system of heart care gathering medical professionals, students and researchers. 

Fraser said there have always been various cardiac subspecialties in the Austin area, but they often worked in siloes and referred patients to other specialists without a lot of collaboration if they required help from an electrophysiologist or interventional cardiologist. This new program will integrate the subspecialties to ensure patients have a continuum of care by a team, rather than separate practitioners.

"We want to bring in intensive care, anesthesiology, OR nursing, perfusion, outcomes analytics, administrative team and our educational team," Fraser said. "We have already started doing this at Dell Children's Hospital and it makes for a very robust environment. If you were to come join our rounds tomorrow morning, you would find the entirety of our heart program reviewing every patient that is in the hospital. That is novel in my experience. I have been in some great places, but I have never been in a place where every single patient, is revered by the entire cardiology program. Everybody on the team has something valuable to contribute to the proposition."

He said this also helps build a basis for understanding the care continuum.

As a congenital cardiac surgeon, he said he meets a lot of patients when they are fetuses, sometimes just 21 weeks gestation. These patients need to be cared for by cardiologists for the rest of their lives, and he said it is important to have a system that can make the transition seamless between specialists over the long term.

Fraser said the Austin, Texas area has had explosive growth over the past decade and Ascension has been building new facilities to keep up with demand among the new patients moving into the area. He said it makes economic sense to create a large, integrated cardiology program now as the area expands with new growth. It will also help people get the care they need locally rather than being sent to large cardiac centers in Dallas and Houston.

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