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Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems Expands Services and Opens New Heart and Vascular Center

The new Heart & Vascular Center will be located inside Watauga Medical Center in the former education wing.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is excited to announce the opening of the new Heart & Vascular Center at Watauga Medical Center (WMC) in Boone. Formerly known as The Cardiology Center, the 8,000 square foot facility will open on August 17th in a new heart care wing at the medical center.
The Heart & Vascular Center will provide more efficient and convenient access for patients, by integrating outpatient heart care with diagnostic services in the same convenient location.
“We are excited to provide a collaborative approach to the treatment of complex heart and vascular conditions,” said Kim Bianca, President of Watauga Medical Center. “Bringing services – diagnostic testing, catheterization lab, etc. – under one roof reduces the wait time for patients and enhances the level of interaction between medical professionals to collaborate and deliver customized care.”
Patients of the Heart & Vascular Center will find twelve exam rooms, three device rooms, and two heart failure treatment rooms. The new name represents the enhanced service offerings and multi-disciplined team of board-certified cardiologists, advanced practice providers, cardiac nurses, office staff, and device technicians that all partner with patients to manage symptoms, monitor medications, and create customized treatment plans.
Time is Muscle
During a cardiac emergency, time is muscle. A delay in restoring blood flow increases the chance for significant damage to the heart muscle.
On July 1, Watauga Medical Center began performing cardiac catheterizations 24/7. This expanded service ensures patients experiencing a cardiac emergency receive a prompt diagnosis and expedited treatment in Boone. Now with 24/7 coverage, cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, emergency department providers and emergency first responders can partner to diagnose problems with blood flow, blood pressure and valve function, which can save lives and reduce the chances of long-term damage.
Watauga Medical Center has two interventional procedure labs equipped to provide comprehensive cardiovascular care including coronary and peripheral vascular procedures, interventional radiology, interventional cardiac procedures (cardiac cath), and device implants such as heart monitors, pacemakers and defibrillators. On average, more than 450 diagnostic cardiac catheterizations are done annually at WMC.
“The catheterization lab also boasts a 40-minute door-to-balloon time, which is 14 minutes better than the national average,” said Dr. Donna Denier, Medical Director for the Cath Lab and Heart and Vascular Center.” (Door-to-balloon time is a national metric in the treatment of heart attacks. It denotes the time between when the patient arrives in the emergency room until the time the balloon is inflated in the blocked coronary artery. The recommended door-to-balloon time is 90 minutes).
Excellence and Quality
With all of the changes that are taking place at the medical center regarding heart and vascular care, one thing patients can be certain will remain the same: the award winning care they receive from the multi-disciplined heart and vascular team. Their high standards of excellence have not gone unnoticed. The most recent accolades they’ve received include the Gold Seal of Approval and advanced certification for Chest Pain by the Joint Commission, along with a 5-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Healthgrades also recognized Watauga Medical Center with the 2020 Coronary Intervention Excellence Award™ and they were ranked in the top 10% in the nation in 2020. WMC also received a 5-star rating for Treatment of Heart Attack two years in a row (2019-2020) and a 5-star rating for Treatment of Heart Failure in 2020.
Additionally, the Echocardiography labs at Watauga Medical Center and Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville are certified by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission in Echocardiography for heart (cardiac) imaging excellence.
“Having a local healthcare team experienced in heart and vascular care is not just a convenience, it is imperative,” said Bianca. “The opening of this facility represents our continued commitment to providing excellent medical care in the high country.”
COVID-Safe Care

While it is understandable that many patients have concerns about seeking care for non-coronavirus-related conditions, the health risks of delaying care – especially regarding heart health – could be more severe than COVID-19 itself. All of ARHS has implemented enhanced safety measures to include rigorous cleaning protocols, limited visitation, advanced screening processes, and separate medical units for those suspected of having COVID-19.

“Please do not delay care, as time is of the essence with any heart-related issue,” Bianca continued. “Reports of heart attacks have declined by 40 percent worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19 is still impacting the area, our number one priority at the Heart & Vascular Center and across the healthcare system is safe, timely care.”

As our community continues to receive COVID-19 prevention advice and rising case counts, it’s important to stay informed and utilize reliable sources such as CDC, NCDHHS, AppHealthCare and Toe River Health District. For more information about COVID-Safe care, visit apprhs.org/covidsafe.
Virtual Ribbon Cutting & Tour

The community is invited to join Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce in celebrating the new Heart & Vascular Center through an online event. The Virtual Ribbon Cutting & Tour will be streamed on Tuesday, September 1st at 4:30 pm via Facebook Live at facebook.com/apprhs.

For more information about heart and vascular services offered across Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, please visit apprhs.org/heart/