When Northern Arizona Healthcare purchased Mountain Heart in April, the healthcare organization became the sole provider of cardiology services in Flagstaff until just this month, when Peak Heart & Vascular opened its Flagstaff office.
The idea for the Phoenix-based provider’s expansion to northern Arizona was prompted by an existing local practice, Flagstaff Family Care Clinic, whose primary care providers were struggling with the lack of nearby cardiology options.
“We have 14 providers and they came to me and said, ‘We can’t get our patients in. We’ve got three-month waits. We’re having to send our patients to Phoenix to see a cardiologist even for an office visit because we could not get them in in a timely manner,’” said Cindy Wade, practice administrator of Flagstaff Family Care Clinic. “So my mission was to go invite a cardiologist team that could come to Flagstaff.”
Wade researched various providers, considering references and the cost and availability to the clinic’s patients in northern Arizona, when reaching out to offer a partnership to increase local access to cardiovascular care, starting with Flagstaff Family Care’s patients.
“Whenever there is a specialty void in a community, it always affects the primary care providers as well as the patient,” Wade said.
The two practices are separate businesses and are each open to their own patients, but are working together to increase local access to cardiovascular care, a collaboration that extends to Flagstaff’s existing cardiologists.
Doctor of Nursing Practice Megan Engbring, who used to work at NAH, said she does not see the two cardiology practices as competitors, but instead as allies in the effort to improve the health of the entire northern Arizona community.
Engbring has worked in cardiology in Flagstaff for seven years and was one of the first patients at Flagstaff Family Care when it opened in 2006. She also worked there in primary care before transitioning to cardiology. This connection helped to spark Peak Heart & Vascular’s new office, which is located just two suites over from the clinic’s spot in the Yale Plaza.
“What I loved about Cindy’s idea to bring more cardiology here is just to increase the capacity for cardiology services. There is the demand for it, the patients feel it just in the volume. It’s hard for any one group to service all of northern Arizona,” Engbring said, explaining that, historically, there were cardiology outreach clinics throughout the region.
A benefit of the pandemic, she said, has been the ability to reach some of these more remote patients through the expansion of telemedicine, one of Peak Heart & Vascular’s specialties.
The practice, which has a total of 10 providers, allows same-day appointments and offers diagnostic and therapeutic cardiology services, vascular surgery and endovascular treatments as well as electrophysiology for patients with cardiac rhythm disorders. Physicians take turns working out of the new Flagstaff office every Friday, but those who are not in town are available via telehealth. The other two Peak Heart & Vascular offices are located in Surprise and Avondale.
“Most cardiac diseases need immediate attention,” said Dr. Kishlay Anand, who specializes in general cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology. “If you have to wait six months or so, that doesn’t help. A lot of these people need quick attention and improved access to care is critical. … Just imagine if somebody was having chest pain and they’re asked to wait to see a doctor.”
Anand said, despite the practice’s recent move to Flagstaff, patient volume has been increasing quickly.
“Our goal is to bring high quality cardiovascular care that’s easy access to the Flagstaff community,” he said, noting the physician-owned practice’s desire to serve “a full spectrum in the community.”
So far, this includes patients from areas including Flagstaff, Williams, Winslow, Kingman, Sedona, the Verde Valley, Kayenta and Tuba City.
Flagstaff Family Care previously partnered with Mountain Heart before its sale, which was prompted by the retirement of cardiologist Dr. Kent Winkler, who owned the practice since it opened in 2008. The clinic has a similar partnership with a provider in Sedona to offer neurology services, which Wade said are also limited in Flagstaff for the practice’s patients.