Patients today might not believe that Colorado Springs Cardiology began with three doctors in 1974. Over the ensuing four decades, it has morphed into a practice of 90 employees, including 18 physicians who deliver care via a central office at Penrose Hospital and an eastern office at the Sisters Grove Pavilion adjacent to St. Francis Medical Center.
The two locations provide a range of clinical cardiology care, including examinations and consultations, electrophysiological care to include EKGs as well as pacemaker and defibrillator implantation and preventive care.
Three years ago Colorado Springs Cardiologists PC, the corporation’s name, entered into a long-term agreement with Centura Health System to provide its cardiology services.
According to Dr. Brian Metz, managing partner with the corporation, the alignment has provided access to the resources of one of the state’s largest health systems while centralizing operations. He said the arrangement has also freed the practice’s physicians from the time constraints of running a business, an area handled by Practice Administrator Wess Chambers.
“It’s allowed our doctors to be doctors,” Metz said. “The hospital takes care of our billing, hiring our staff, providing their pay and benefits, and making sure we have everything we need to succeed. If we need a new imaging machine, the hospital makes sure we get it. The physicians make sure the patients get the best care possible. Working together, the hospital thrives, physicians are happy and patients get a superb level of care. … Physicians were trained to care for patients as best as possible, not run the business.”
Metz added that addressing matters of the heart in Colorado Springs has its advantages.
“It starts with great patients, people who are willing to work hard to get better. We are one of the healthiest states and cities in the country. Our patients generally comply with their treatment regimen. Our retired population is especially compliant. I love the retired military population. They are the easiest bunch of people for which to care,” he said.
“Also, it doesn’t hurt to have patrons like Thelma Morici, who have donated large parts of their life savings to support an institution they believe in. She donated a large portion of our hybrid [operating room] for [transcatheter aortic valve replacement].”
Keep them well
Health care is in a state of transition, moving from a model of caring for sick people to keeping them well. Metz said cardiology takes the concept “one step further when a patient is at unusually high risk for coronary artery disease, such as patients with very high cholesterol, or strong family history of coronary disease.”
Metz said Colorado Springs Cardiology uses advanced lipid (cholesterol) testing, which determines the aggressiveness of treatment.
“When there are still questions, we use imaging techniques, such as CT calcium scoring and vascular ultrasound imaging to stratify a person’s degree of early atherosclerosis,” Metz explained. “We have clinics dedicated to calcium scoring, and arranging appropriate follow-up.”
Metz said preventive cardiological care can be as simple as making healthy lifestyle choices. Those include avoiding tobacco and being aware of diet. Metz said Mediterranean cuisine — low in trans fats but heavy in fish, chicken, salads and protein-rich yogurts — benefits heart health.
“I would recommend yogurt and oatmeal every day for breakfast,” Metz said. “Save the meat for later.”
Metz added that heart health is not just for the aged. He said younger patients experiencing a heart attack, for instance, may present more severe symptoms than their older counterparts. Metz said older individuals have had years of heart irregularities that result in adaptations, which can minimize symptoms over time.
Forward to the beat
Metz said cardiology has seen significant advancements in recent years, to include medications, imaging and intervention.
Newer classes of medications are better tolerated today, and generic options have made care more affordable. Metz said, as imaging goes, 3-D modeling of the heart “is key to better evaluation of valve disease, and essential in interventional techniques,” and that images can be shared and reviewed digitally.
“The image quality and detail is superb and [fewer] abnormalities are missed,” Metz said.
Regarding intervention, minimally invasive surgical techniques have made significant strides, to include transcatheter aortic valve replacement surgery done via a leg artery, and coronary interventions done via the radial artery in the wrist. Mitral valve surgery can now be performed between ribs, where cracking the sternum was once required.
Metz said hybrid bypass procedures can be done without having to put a patient on a heart/lung machine. He added that a better understanding of genetics has also led to better prevention, diagnosis and care.
Metz said there is also a research component to the practice, which has participated in numerous pacemaker and implanted defibrillator trials “to improve these devices and find better algorithms.”
Metz said the practice will also participate in an upcoming trial to utilize new medication to make statins more effective at preventing coronary disease.
Room to grow
Metz said Colorado Springs Cardiology is going through a growth spurt. The north location has recently tripled its space and the central location continues to expand as well.
“[There’s been] significant growth at [Sisters Grove Pavilion],” Metz said. “It is becoming as busy as our Penrose Main [office] on some days, especially with the growth of population on the northeast side of town.”
In addition, the practice recently hired five new physicians with expertise including pacemaker lead extraction, echocardiography, peripheral vascular interventions and nuclear imaging.
“With physicians like this, there is no limit to the possibilities for further improving our practice and hospitals,” Metz said.
Colorado Springs Cardiology
Offices: 2222 N. Nevada Ave., #4007,
6011 E. Woodmen Road, #105
Phone: 776-8500 (Central); 571-8600 (North)