Brent Batten: Hospitals near and far team up to prepare community for COVID's next phase

Brent Batten   | Naples Daily News Way back in 2012 NCH Healthcare System entered a partnership with

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Brent Batten   | Naples Daily News

Way back in 2012 NCH Healthcare System entered a partnership with the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic that allows doctors to consult remotely, share best practices and even diagnose patients via video conference.

Do you suppose they knew something the rest of us didn’t?

The collaboration between the local health system and one of the nation’s top hospitals has paid off during the coronavirus pandemic when working remotely has the added benefit of minimizing person-to-person contact.

The two institutions seek to take their partnership to a new level beginning today with what they are calling a “cardiology community talk,” on Zoom at 11 a.m.

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To join the video conference visit the NCH website at where participants can find access with one click.

It is the first installment of a three-part series with subsequent dates in October and November to be announced as they are finalized.

The goal is to speak directly to community members about issues that are emerging as the pandemic enters a new phase.

Specifically, while COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, doctors are beginning to see it can have serious implications for heart health, too.

As people begin to resume something resembling a normal life, doctors want people to understand the risks and to take the steps necessary to protect themselves, said Dr. David Axline, an NCH cardiologist and one of the program participants. He will be joined by Dr. Kristin Mascotti of NCH and Dr. Melissa Lyle of Mayo Clinic.

“Although it’s a respiratory virus, it affects the whole body. We don’t fully understand how COVID affects the heart, but it clearly affects the heart,” Axline said.

People who have serious heart conditions, such as previous heart attacks, are clearly at higher risk than others.

But even less severe conditions, like high blood pressure and obesity can be a problem, too, he said. “Abdominal obesity increases the ‘evil humor,’ so to speak,” Axline said.

The doctors will offer information and answer questions from the Zoom participants during the session.

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The goal isn’t to scare people but to assure them that the doctors are ready and able to assist as the busy winter season unfolds.

NCH has plenty of bed capacity, equipment and staff to deal with the pandemic, even if a second surge occurs, said CEO Paul Hiltz.

As of Tuesday — after any increases due to the Labor Day holiday or the opening of schools should have materialized — there were fewer than 25 COVID patients in NCH hospitals. That’s down from a high of around 144 in July.

NCH has been working with Mayo Clinic on research into the benefits of convalescent blood plasma taken from recovered patients.

That’s just one example of the working arrangement between the two groups paying off during the pandemic, Hiltz said.

Remote meetings are nothing new to the two organizations. They’ve been part of the mix since early in the arrangement.

But they have been more common and more necessary during the pandemic.

Axline said he expects remote meetings to become the norm. “I think it’s probably here to stay. It’s not easy to take care of patients that way, but we all have to learn to do it. You have to make it work,” he said.

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The series of online meetings with medical professionals from NCH and Mayo Clinic to answer the community’s questions and dispense useful information is a way to take advantage of the technology to allay fears while instilling a necessary sense of caution, Axline said.

“We all have to try to live our lives, but it’s important we take it seriously,” Axline said.

(Connect with Brent Batten at or via Facebook.)
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