New Innovations in Heart Care

Dr. Keith Knepp, UnityPoint Health – Peoria

Innovation is a key part of who we are at UnityPoint Health. We believe in bringing new ideas to the forefront in care delivery and in how we do business. We’re currently embarking on a journey to create new ways of delivering heart care to the community. The effort is being led by a new member of our team, Dr. John Seccomb.

Dr. Seccombe is a heart and lung surgeon with years of experience in valvular heart disease, thoracic oncology and chest wall reconstruction—but it’s the work he’s doing to keep hearts healthy that excites me the most. It’s not a different way of delivering care; it’s a different way of thinking. And I believe this work is going to have a tremendous impact on our patients.

The innovation is happening in how we’re identifying valvular heart disease, which occurs when there’s damage to the valves inside your heart, disrupting blood flow between the heart’s chambers. The symptoms are usually subtle, and many patients aren’t diagnosed until the disease has progressed significantly. At that point, patients will almost certainly require surgery and other aggressive treatments, and it may be too late for some of them. But we don’t want it to be too late for anyone. That’s where our work begins.

We’re starting with our own providers. Primary care providers are the first point of contact for most patients, and are most in tune with their patients’ health. Still, with many people receiving only an annual exam or visiting the doctor’s office when they’re sick, it can be difficult to spot the early symptoms of valvular heart disease. We’re working to change that by creating a new education program, led by Dr. Seccombe. He and the entire cardiovascular services team will be partnering with our primary care providers, working to find ways of spotting valvular disease earlier—even before the patient notices symptoms. This effort will leverage the latest research medicine has to offer, in line with guidelines set forth by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

When patients are identified as having valvular heart disease, we’ll care for them through a new valvular clinic. Because we’ll be identifying the disease earlier, more treatment options will be available. Our providers will partner with patients to provide in-depth education. The goal is to work with the patient to manage the disease, restoring health and avoiding more complicated treatments and prognoses that are often unavoidable when the disease is discovered later.

Valvular heart disease can be a silent killer, but UnityPoint Health is finding new ways of beating it. We believe in continually working to become better at what we do. This work is driven by our mission, to provide outstanding healthcare to everyone we serve. Our work in valvular heart disease will help us deliver truly life-changing care to more patients, and we will continue innovating, working to help all of us live our healthiest lives. iBi

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