Breathlessness Clinic launched by respiratory and cardiology specialists

Wednesday, 11 Jul 2018

A Breathlessness Clinic that combines the skills of a respiratory specialist and a cardiologist in the same room has been launched by the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.

Co-founder Dr Tracy Smith, a respiratory physician at the Woolcock, says it has been her ambition since she was a registrar to have ‘one stop shop’ for dyspnoea patients, to help them get their breathlessness problem resolved quickly.

“Breathless patients are often referred to a respiratory physician or a cardiologist first, who says ‘it’s not my organ’ and then they go back to the GP to be sent to the other specialist later,” Dr Smith tells the limbic.

“This process can be time-consuming, costly and frustrating for all involved.”

The Woolcock Breathlessness Clinic seeks to solve this problem with an innovative multispecialty model of care. Under this approach, patients see a cardiologist and a respiratory physician at the same time to allow rapid, comprehensive assessment.

The clinic is for patients who present to their GP with breathlessness persisting for 4-8 weeks or longer. Before referring a patient to the Breathlessness Clinic, the GP is recommended to conduct baseline tests and treatments for any underlying asthma, COPD or heart disease. If no improvements are seen, they can be referred to the Clinic where patients will complete a screening questionnaire, full lung function testing and chest x-ray prior to seeing specialist doctors.

Working in conjunction with the clinic’s cardiologist Professor Len Kritharides, Dr Smith says patients will benefit from more holistic model that does not consider dyspnoea to have a single cause.

“All the available guidelines for dyspnoea assume that the patient only has one disease but in the real world when you have a patient in front of you they often have a bit of lung disease and a bit of cardiac disease, and that’s tricky.” she says.

“The patient does not know or care if their condition is 70% lung or 30% heart, they tell you they just want to get better. And this will allow us to balance the burden and get those better outcomes for those patients.”

And having a cardiologist and respiratory physician see the patient simultaneously, will allow the two specialists to talk to each other and bounce ideas off each other, adds Dr Smith.

“It provides synergy and it provides united investigation and united treatment/management,” she says.

After being seen at the clinic, the patient’s GPs receives detailed correspondence regarding recommendations after each clinical assessment.

“Our ultimate goal is to help patients identify their treatment options as quickly as possible so they can get back to living a healthy, fulfilled life,” says Dr Smith.

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