Clinic Managing Blood Thinning Therapy a Boon for Patients

Monitoring patients on blood-thinning medications is serious business.

Too little, and the medication is less effective in preventing heart attacks, strokes or blood clots, such as those in the legs and lungs. Too much, and the patient is at risk of internal bleeding or excessive bleeding with a cut.

With regular blood draws from a lab, it can be two or more days before the results get back to the doctor and then to the patient. If the patient took any more doses in the interim, then levels likely have changed, nullifying the initial results.

But the process is much simpler and efficient at an anticoagulation clinic such as the one run by Saguaro Physicians, TMC’s employed physician group.

With just a finger stick, patients will know within 30 seconds whether the Coumadin level in their blood is at safe and effective levels. And because Saguaro Physicians uses an electronic medical record, their primary care doctor or cardiologist has nearly instant access to that information as well, along with other key information, such as whether they’ve missed any doses or taken any extra ones.

Dr. Richard Johnson, who spearheaded the creation of the clinic, said the goal is to improve patient safety and convenience. “The need to find an efficient and safe system to prevent blood clots and strokes in patients in need of such medication was a strong driving force to start this clinic,” he said, adding it has been successful in that mission.

With some patients on the medication for years, many have developed a strong relationship with Linda Basurto, a medical assistant who runs the clinic and tries to be as close to a one-stop shop as possible.

She’s able to help with diet questions: Greens thicken the blood, alcohol thins it. She’s able to explain how any new medications might react with Coumadin and then stay in close contact to make sure their levels stay within range.

Patients often call her with questions: Can they take this new supplement they found at the store? Can she submit a refill request from their doctor?

If a patient misses an appointment, she’s on the phone with them to find out if something happened and to reschedule. “This is not a medication that you can decide not to take one day, or decide to take 2 or 3 the next day because you missed one,” she said. “This requires careful monitoring.”

When the clinic opened in 2009, she was seeing about 10 patients a week. That number is now up to 75 or so, she estimated.

The clinic helps free up physicians, but as importantly, it helps patients, Basurto said.

One man recently shared his plans to go on a scuba diving trip. That raised a red flag for her, given his history of blood clots in the lungs. She checked with doctors and long story short, he was content to wave from the sandy beach.

Sometimes, she helps in ways that don’t come with numbers.

She noticed another patient had been losing quite a bit of weight. The man shared that the anniversary of his wife’s death was coming up and the thing he missed most about her cooking was her pot roast, but he didn’t know how to make it. She gave him her recipe. Next time he saw her, he gave her a hug and said it was the best meal he’d had since her passing.

“It’s more than just checking their levels,” Basurto said. “Sometimes it’s about knowing what’s going on outside of here as well. Building a patient’s trust is really important.”

Patient Maryclaire Carey said she “feels blessed by Linda. She’s one of those kind, warm, caring people who really is trying to help you feel better.”

The clinic is so much better than having blood drawn at a lab, she said. “I don’t come home with bandages all over my arm. It’s really a painless way to get it checked,” she said.

For more information, please call 520-290-9334.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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