Westerly cardiologist discusses decision to join Hartford HealthCare

Westerly cardiologist discusses decision to join Hartford HealthCare

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — Faced with growing pressures brought on by changes to how Medicare and insurance companies reimburse doctors for services, as well as increasing overhead costs, Dr. Howard Haronian started looking for a physicians group or health care system to join.

After two years of talks with Yale New Haven Health and other systems, the cardiologist, who has practiced in Westerly since 1994, decided to join Yale’s primary rival, Hartford HealthCare. During a recent interview, Haronian said he was aware that his decision, which took effect June 1, might still be making waves in the community, given Westerly Hospital’s affiliation with Yale New Haven Health, which went into effect about one year ago. Indeed, Haronian said, at least one Westerly Hospital board member, referring to Yale, asked, “What did they do?” But in the end, Haronian said, his decision was based on his belief in what he felt was best for his patients and his practice, which he shares with partners Drs. Stephen Kutz and Jon Scheiber.

“It’s sort of the evolution of a cardiac practice rather than a staunch reaction” to Westerly Hospital becoming part of the Yale system, Haronian said.

Private practitioners joining large health care systems or groups has become a trend. Haronian said that while he and his partners would have preferred to remain private, joining a larger system has already allowed the practice to add a new registered nurse to its staff and upgrade imaging equipment. The move also allows for better coordination of complex care, he said. “This helps with stability and growth of the practice,” he said.

Patients have noticed no significant change aside from who Haronian refers patients to. “Before they would have heard me talk about Yale now they will hear me talk about Hartford,” Haronian said.

If patients seek referrals to Yale or doctors in Providence or Boston, Haronian said he would continue to make those referrals as well.

Throughout his career Haronian served as a part-time faculty member at the Yale School of Medicine, performing surgeries at Yale New Haven Hospital twice a week early in his career, and once a week as his practice developed. Now he performs surgeries at Hartford Hospital and continues to carry out less involved procedures at Westerly Hospital.

Haronian said he was attracted to Hartford for many reasons, including the fact that two of his mentors, Dr. Sabet W. Hashim and Dr. Mark Marieb — both of whom left the Yale system — are now with Hartford HealthCare.

Now, Haronian said if one of his patients needs electro-physiology or advanced heart surgery he can refer them to Hashim and Marieb without requiring the patient to move to a different system, which can affect continuity of care, he said.

“When you are referring to sub-specialists or sub-sub-specialists you have to be very selective as a referring doctor to find folks who have the best outcome and who you trust,” Haronian said.

It was Hashim who called Haronian and broached the subject of him joining Hartford Health and serving as chief medical director and regional vice president of the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institutes’s east region, a position Haronian now holds. In time, Haronian said he is hopeful that the institute will establish a “heart hospital” or physical presence in the Westerly area.

“It’s an opportunity to join a new but growing institute. I love starting new things,” said Haronian, who in addition to founding his practice in Westerly was instrumental in getting the cardiac catheter laboratory at Westerly Hospital started.

The 56-year-old Haronian said he preferred to think of his move to Hartford HealthCare as a positive development that gives local patients another choice, but he acknowledged that he had found Yale deficient in some ways. He called Yale “slower to react” and “bureaucratic” and questioned whether the New Haven-based system’s vision aligns with his own.

“It would have been easier with Yale ... Yale has its benefits, but they didn’t outweigh those of Hartford,” Haronian said.

Vin Petrini, senior vice president of public affairs for Yale New Haven Health, declined to comment directly on Haronian’s remarks or on talks the system might have had with him.

“We have great respect for the physician community in Westerly and the region. It would be inappropriate to comment on any specific conversations or discussions but we are fully confident in our strategic plan to develop new and amplify existing services at Westerly Hospital,” Petrini said.

Some of the new initiatives, Petrini said, include a recently initiated telemedicine effort, new imaging equipment, and the addition of new primary care physicians.



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