Electrophysiology for the EP and general cardiologist

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C.P. Kaiser, Editor

The field of electrophysiology (EP) not only continues to grow, but for many cardiology departments, it is one of the more profitable service lines, especially in light of cath lab procedures (and reimbursement) remaining flat or declining.

And a recent survey by the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) indicated that EPs feel their workload will continue to increase. The survey found that complex ablations, such as with atrial fibrillation, are more likely to be performed at academic centers than smaller facilities. One of the problems with a three- to five-hour AF ablation is that the reimbursement is the same for an hour-long simpler ablation.

Survey respondents indicated that academic centers have more resources in terms of allied staff and have more capacity to perform procedures that are not necessarily profitable.

While the survey did not find a general dissatisfaction among EPs for their line of work, HRS officials expressed concern that the perceived increase in workload and decrease in reimbursement might not bode well for medical students choosing a specialty. There is already an overall shortage of cardiologists, and the need for EP services continues to grow at a fast clip.

Today's EPs, those with high profiles within societies and those with lower profiles, are overall good ambassadors for the specialty. They enjoy their work and they want to help patients get better. There is probably no better way to attract future doctors to the specialty than with one's genuine enthusiasm for one's career choice.

As we all are aware, however, the field of EP is changing rapidly. New drugs, new techniques, new protocols, new devices, new guidelines. All of this "newness" has to be put into perspective in order for EPs to incorporate what is relevant into their practice.

ACC.11 promises to not only help EPs learn what is new (and review what they know), but it also will help cardiologists of all stripes understand this rapidly growing and complex field much better. General cardiologists are often the first specialists that patients with potential risks for arrhythmias will see. These gatekeepers must be confident in their ability to recognize electrical problems. And they must be confident in their EP specialist to whom they will refer these patients.

After attending ACC.11, cardiologists will be better able to converse with their EP colleagues and determine whether the patients they refer will receive the best treatment available.

As always, Cardiovascular Business News will be at the meeting covering all the late-breaking clinical trials, as well as education sessions and important lectures. We'll keep you up to date on all the news at the meeting.

C.P. Kaiser