April 24, 2024

As a cardiologist, one of Dr. Aws Almufleh’s greatest passions is identifying, treating, and educating people about heart failure, and there’s a good reason why. He says it’s one of the most under-recognized and insufficiently treated chronic conditions, with more than 14,000 people living with it in our communities.

“Heart failure is a condition when the heart is either too weak or too stiff to be able to pump enough blood to all organs of the body. This often results in the accumulation of excess fluids in the lungs, legs, or in the belly. Patients feel short of breath, weak, fatigued, lose their appetite, or become bloated.

"Because most heart failure patients have multiple other health conditions, their symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases which delay the diagnosis. If not treated optimally, patients experience worsening symptoms which leads them to go to emergency departments and/or get admitted.”

That’s where Kingston Health Sciences Centre's (KHSC) Heart Function Clinic comes in. A hidden gem (if you know, you know), Dr. Almufleh is the physician lead there and works alongside a talented team of physicians and nurse practitioners.

“The treatment of heart failure starts with patient education, lifestyle modification, and specific heart medications. I have yet to see two heart failure patients who are exactly the same, so the challenge is identifying the cause in each patient, the degree of heart damage and choosing the right treatment.

“I’m very proud of the care we provide at KHSC's Heart Function Clinic and the superb patient outcomes. The most satisfying part is when I see patients in follow-up visits and rejoice in how much better they feel after treatment was started.”
And the education doesn’t stop with patients. Dr. Almufleh and team have created a knowledge exchange environment which extends beyond the walls of KHSC, by leveraging its partnership with the Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Ontario Health Team (FLA OHT).

“No matter how efficient we are, we simply cannot see all the patients living with heart failure in the Kingston area. We’re positioning ourselves to provide education to physicians and nurse practitioner trainees, to collaborate and give guidance to primary care providers in the community, and become active in clinical research.”

Take the FLA OHT Community Council for instance. It’s been a valuable resource for Dr. Almufleh, who’s been working with its members for more than a year.
“I’m very impressed by how the FLA OHT brings partners from various disciplines, the community and academic centres together for the purpose of improving patient outcomes.”

The partnership has even led to the development of a heart failure integrated care pathway, which was co-designed and implemented with patient representatives and many community partners.

“It’s about delivering excellent care for all through collaboration with our community providers and ensuring the care received by patients in the community is equivalent to what we provide at the Heart Function Clinic. It’s like Kerry Stewart, our lead patient partner, says ‘the integrated care pathway brings care to patients, rather than bringing patients to healthcare.’”

“The possibilities are endless,” adds Dr. Almufleh when asked about next steps for this collaboration. You know, when you work with Dr. Kim Morrison, the executive lead of the FLA OHT, and the whole team of dedicated community partners, it’s hard to think about conditions we cannot tackle.”

In fact, an integrated care pathway for chronic obstructive lung disease was previously launched by Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, KHSC respirologist and chief of staff. Both pathways, developed in partnership with the FLA OHT, are helping to deliver care to patients wherever they need it in our communities.