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Duke, WakeMed team up to improve heart care

Posted February 14

— WakeMed and Duke Health said Tuesday that they plan to collaborate to improve cardiovascular care in Wake County by offering a broader scope of services and greater value and affordability.

Heart Care Plus+ isn't the start of a merger between the two rival health care systems, officials said, but it will provide area patients more options for quality heart care when it starts on March 1.

"We believe we can introduce things that don't exist in health care in Wake County now," said Dr. William Fulkerson, executive vice president of Duke Health. "We believe we can improve care in Wake County where patients can get the right care at the right place at the right time."

WakeMed treated almost 20,000 heart patients at its Raleigh and Cary hospitals last year, and the collaboration is designed to expand that to more people and extend it into cardiovascular-related issues, such as stroke care. The two systems say people travel to Durham from around the world for heart care at Duke University Medical Center, and they want to provide the same level of care to Wake County residents.

"They're outstanding doctors at WakeMed and outstanding doctors at Duke, and we think, working together, we can be even better than what we can be independently right now," Fulkerson said. "There are things that our physicians can learn from WakeMed docs and vice versa to really improve the outcomes of patients even more than we're able to do today."

Under the deal, most services will continue to be offered at WakeMed hospitals and physician practices, but Duke physicians will provide added specialty services, and transplants and other complex surgical procedures will be done at Duke University Hospital.

Duke Health and WakeMed are in discussions about a similar collaboration involving cancer services in Wake County, officials said.

Donald Gintzig, chief executive of WakeMed, said the combination will help delivery quality care while controlling costs.

"How do you improve quality, and how do you create access ... at greater value? Collaboration," Gintzig said. "You need to compete, but you want to collaborate to achieve those three aspects.

"It is only through collaboration that we are really going to be able to do something new to transform the way health care is delivered," he continued.

UNC Health Care, the third giant hospital system in the Triangle, is providing its own boost to heart health next month with the opening of the North Carolina Heart & Vascular Hospital on the campus of Rex Hospital in Raleigh.

The 114-bed hospital includes intensive care and cardiac rehabilitation units and will provide an expanded emphasis on disease prevention, education and research, spokesman Alan Wolf said. A demonstration kitchen, for example, will help patients and community members learn how to cook heart-healthy meals. The hospital also will house a simulation lab for cardiovascular surgeons to train on new procedures and devices and to use simulation software to practice before a surgery.

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