VAD Program Recertified

September 2013

The Joint Commission (TJC) has awarded Emory's ventricular assist device (VAD) program Disease Specific Care Certification for Destination Therapy for the third time since 2009. TJC reviews the program every two years, and as with the prior reviews, the agency had no recommendations for improvement during its site survey at Emory University Hospital. Saint Joseph's Hospital's VAD program, which is included in the Emory Advanced Heart Failure Network but is at a separate hospital, received certification last year. Emory was the first VAD program certified by TJC in Georgia.

"TJC's survey process is quite rigorous, and I really appreciate the team's tremendous effort in preparing for such a successful review," says Dr. David Vega, surgical director of the VAD and heart transplant programs. "The primary result of recertification is patients needing a VAD as destination therapy can feel safe knowing they will receive the highest quality care possible and the best outcomes. They will benefit from some of the most experienced and skilled practitioners in the country." In addition, approval is necessary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to continue providing reimbursement for the care of destination therapy VAD patients at Emory.

Drs. Vega and Duc Nguyen are the cardiovascular surgeons with the program. The Emory VAD team also includes cardiologists Dr. Raja Laskar, medical director of the program, and Dr. Andy Smith, director of the Center for Heart Failure Therapy and Transplantation; VAD coordinators and nurse practitioners Ann Pekarek and Kris Wittersheim; Laura Jacobson, director of heart transplant and VAD services; and Kevin McTeague, lead VAD technologist, and Michael Gay, VAD tech, who manage technical support and maintain the devices.

The VAD program currently is providing care to 27 patients who have received implants for final destination therapy. An additional 27 patients receiving care at Emory have implants as successful bridges to a donor heart transplant or to candidacy on the heart transplant wait list. The program uses the HeartMate II and HeartWare left ventricular assist devices for patients.

"TJC will survey the program again in two years," remarks Ms. Wittersheim. "We received a glowing report with no RFIs (recommendations for improvement). The surveyor also identified procedures she called 'best practices' at EUH that can serve as a model for other hospitals seeking certification."