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EXPANDED SERVICE: Heart South moves to new building in Clanton

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the September 2021 edition of Chilton County Wellness. Copies are available at The Clanton Advertiser office, 1109 Seventh Street North in Clanton. 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOYANNA LOVE

Heart South has moved to a larger location to better serve Chilton County.

Previously, Heart South had an office in the outpatient services area of St. Vincent’s Chilton.

This space offered the cardiologist teams a place to work, but the new space has allowed them to expand the services offered.

In May 2021, Heart South moved to its own building on Medical Center Drive.

Heart South has had a presence in Clanton for the past 25 years. Dr. John McBrayer has been with the company that entire time.

“We love being here,” McBrayer said. “We have been coming a long time, and we intend to be here a long time because we all like it. One of our partners lives here … We all feel we have a vested interest to make sure the medical care continues to improve and progress.”

He said the new building gives more space.

“We are able to provide services, such as blood drawing and nuclear echo(cardiograms) right on site,” McBrayer said. “Any time you have control of your business, how you are doing things, it makes it better for you.”

This has also allowed for patients to get lab results quicker by sending the samples to the Alabaster office. Many test results can also be given in house, although there are some that have to be sent off.

Anna Marie Cox, a registered vascular tech, does echocardiograms, which focus on the function and structure of the heart.

“Typically, the echocardiogram and the stress test go hand in hand,” Cox said. “We can make sure there are no blockages with a stress test and also make sure the heart is functioning properly with the echo.”

Irregularities with the heart valves may lead to it being monitored on a regular basis or scheduling a procedure at a hospital to address it.

Vascular ultrasounds are used to view arteries, veins and the aorta to spot issues.

Cox said an echocardiogram usually takes 30-45 minutes, while a vascular ultrasound takes 20-30 minutes.

Having the new location has made these services more convenient to residents, who can now go straight into the office, rather than having to go to the hospital. The new location is easy to get in and out of with its own designated parking lot.

The most common reasons people are coming to a cardiologist is coronary disease, hypertension and congestive heart failure.

However, McBrayer said preventing these types of conditions is also a focus.

“We are trying to keep cholesterols low and treat that sort of thing,” McBrayer said.

He said the goal is always to help people.

The Clanton office of Heart South has five doctors that rotate days. Nurse practitioners, nurses, lab technician and patient support staff are all a part of the Heart South team.

Working for Heart South is special for Nurse Practitioner Kirsten Larsen-Vansant.

“My mom, 15 years ago, was treated by Heart South,” Larsen- Vansant said. “They saved her life, and I love that I can carry through on that for other people.”

Larsen-Vansant said in her role, she “supports the physician in collaborative care.” A nurse practitioner is in the room when the doctor sees the patient.

“We function to put the notes together, place the orders and help

to review the chart and help with the decision making during the visit,” Larsen- Vansant said.

She also builds relationships with the patients, and can see them if the physician is unavailable for hospital follow ups and acute issues, such as chest pain.

She communicates with the hospital about patient care and works to address any issues with test results.

“I enjoy working collaboratively, but also getting to know the patients and developing the long-term relationships in the clinic setting, and look forward to serving them for their lifetime of care,” Larsen-Vansant said.

Moving to the new location has brought an increase in patients to the Clanton office.

“We are already adding an echo tech,” McBrayer said.

About 30% of patients are referrals, but the majority contact Heart South directly.

Larsen-Vansant said the new location gives Heart South “autonomy, so that we can provide thorough service for the patient. We were limited in what we could do at the hospital. We weren’t providing the testing and the diagnostics.”

The staff can also now do pacemaker checks.

While seeing a cardiologist is something most people think of only when there is a problem, McBrayer

recommends getting cholesterol checked at age 40 “to assess your risk.”

When patients first step into Heart South, the person they talk to is a patient access coordinator like Chelsea Baker.

Baker greets patients and handles taking insurance and primary care information, in addition to processing copays.

She said she also explains what needs to be done to the patients.

Baker tries to help alleviate the anxiety of being in a cardiologist office by being friendly and answering any questions. Many of those questions often have to do with the doctors, what tests might be done that day and what the patients needs to do next.

“What I like about the move is that we have our own space,” Baker said. “We have a larger area. I have a second person to help me as well. Patients really love being able to come here, rather than having to go to the hospital.”

The décor of the office was also chosen with potential anxiety of patients in mind. Canvas print of beautiful scenery hang on the walls of the hallway and in some of the offices.

Heart South’s main office is in Alabaster, and it has an off-site clinic in Bibb County with 12 doctors working for the company.