A Publication of WTVP

HeartCare Midwest was formed in 1994 by the merger of the nine members of Cardiovascular Medicine and the six members of Illinois Heart Institute, according to HeartCare Midwest President Ronald Rabjohns, MD. "Dr. Donald McRaven was the founding member of Cardiovascular Medicine and Drs. Donald McElroy and Anthony Brody were the founding members of Illinois Heart Institute. Since the creation of HeartCare Midwest in 1994, we've grown to include a total of 28 physicians, including subspecialists in all areas of cardiology and three cardiothoracic surgeons."

HeartCare Midwest offers a full range of cardiovascular care, he said. "This includes diagnostic evaluation and testing, risk factor management, and interventions meant to correct cardiac and vascular abnormalities. Our goal is to find cardiovascular disease, to correct what we can, and to manage medically chronic conditions in a compassionate manner. We want to prolong life and reduce suffering. It sounds corny, but it's true."

The growth Heartcare Midwest has experienced over its 10 years has led to benefits not only for them, but for the area as a whole. "The medical community of Peoria has a history of being a great resource to others throughout central Illinois," he said. "I'm proud to say the physicians of HeartCare Midwest have led much of the outreach to surrounding communities that results in patients coming to Peoria for services not available in their hometowns. So a lot of HeartCare Midwest's growth is reflected in the growth at the local hospitals. Our growth is not only in numbers of patients seen, but also in types of patients and complexity of disease. We've recruited and grown professionally to allow us to provide the most current therapies available. We have specialists in congestive heart failure, we have a cardiac transplant program, and we have had an electrophysiology program that's reduced the risk of sudden cardiac death for 18 years."

Rabjohns said what sets HeartCare Midwest apart from others in the industry is its independence, sense of collegiality within the group, and emphasis on each patient. "We've always provided services at all local hospitals, and we'll continue to do that as long as we're allowed to. Although we're a large group, we frequently interact on a professional level; we enjoy and learn from internal consultations, and our patients benefit from our teamwork. Whatever changes come in health care-changes in financing, local and regional competition, new technology-our focus is on the patient in front of us each day."

A merging of physicians under one roof has been one of the results of the many changes seen recently in health care. "The complexity of the medical world-professional, regulatory, legal, political, financial-has led many specialist physicians to coalesce into organizations that can share the cost of running the gauntlet of these new stresses," he said. "These physician organizations run the risk of being nothing more than independent doctors sharing office space. At HeartCare Midwest, we've tried to become an organization that acts in a disciplined and coordinated manner to enhance services to our patients and referring physicians. This trend to a larger organization has been beneficial for us, as it should make patient management more seamless within our organization, make us more visible and attractive to referring physicians, and help us in recruiting new physicians to our community."

Rabjohns said the most challenging project for HeartCare Midwest was the process of deciding whether and where to build an independent office building. "We had to consider financial, political, and personal issues and come to a conclusion all members of the group could live with. You've heard the expression 'herding cats.' I'm proud to say we reached a consensus after long, spirited deliberation, and we look forward to opening our new office."

As for the future of medicine in general, he predicted physicians' mindsets will undergo changes to keep up with changes in society. "As the population ages, all physicians will need to change their medical approach from a diagnose-and-treat format to the concept of disease management. Our patients are living longer, surviving events now that they wouldn't have 10 or 20 years ago. More research is pointing to the benefits of therapeutic lifestyle changes-not smoking, exercising, maintaining a healthy body weight, and controlling blood pressure/diabetes/cholesterol. Although we'll always have new and expanding technology to address cardiovascular disease, I think the future will bring more emphasis on prevention and management of disease before it's manifested in a catastrophic event such as a heart attack or stroke." IBI