At University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, patients with congestive heart failure are living healthier, happier lives

Amy Kunde 2
At University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, there has been a significant reduction in heart failure readmissions thanks to clinical nurse navigators (Amy Kunde pictured) who educate patients on ways to stay healthy by helping them navigate their diseases.

By Laura Briedis

When University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center opened in 2011, patients gained access to a first-rate hospital on the East Side, but this leading medical facility is just as focused on keeping patients healthy at home.

One of the most frequent reasons for hospitalizations is heart failure. For those with congestive heart failure, the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the body’s needs, which often leads to many hospital visits. However, at UH Ahuja Medical Center, there has been a significant reduction in readmissions thanks to clinical nurse navigators who educate patients on ways to stay healthy by helping them navigate their disease.

“Our goal is to provide excellent care to increase quality of life and survival of heart failure patients,” says Amy Kunde, RN, BSN, who is the clinical nurse navigator at the Congestive Heart Failure Clinic. “I educate patients and their families on disease management with proper follow-up to reduce hospital readmissions and keep patients healthy at home.”

Though there is no cure for congestive heart failure, as it is a progressive, chronic disease, addressing problems such as high blood pressure, blocked arteries and diseased heart valves can help. Patients also can learn ways to help prevent episodes and manage symptoms by understanding the importance of following a low-sodium and heart-healthy cardiac diet, limiting fluid intake and monitoring their vital signs.

“I educate patients on the benefits of taking prescribed GDMT medications and outline available UH pharmacy services, such as meds to beds that provide a 30-day supply before they are discharged,” says Amy, who has worked with heart failure patients for 20-plus years, both as a registered nurse and in medical device sales for defibrillators, pacemakers, and an implantable hemodynamic monitoring system that monitors changes in pulmonary artery pressure, an early indicator of the onset of worsening heart failure.

At the Congestive Heart Failure Clinic, which is open every Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., patients receive a free digital scale and blood pressure monitor with a daily tracking log. The staff also assesses and screens patients for devices such as Impulse Dynamics CCM Therapy, a minimally invasive implantable device to improve contraction of the heart, allowing more oxygen-rich blood to reach the body; and Zoll Heart Failure Management System, a non-invasive technology geared toward early indication and management of fluid to reduce hospital admissions. As a patient with heart failure disease progresses, a referral may be needed to the excellent Advanced HF cardiology team for LVAD or heart transplant. The clinic, which is run by a nurse practitioner, a nurse navigator and a medical assistant, also makes sure patients schedule follow-up appointments with their physician or cardiologist. Another beneficial offering is UH’s Healthy at Home Virtual Clinic, a free service that provides high-touch daily intervention to avoid hospitalizations in the most vulnerable and complex patients. Amy explains that a team of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals helps guide patients from their transition from hospital to home for approximately 30 days.

Just as important as educating and following up with patients, the nurse navigator also provides reassurance to patients who may be worried about their heart health.

“I spend lot of time with patients and their families, answering their questions and addressing any concerns,” Amy says. “I get to know my patients well, and it is so rewarding to be able to help them live a healthier life.”

Know the Symptoms
It is estimated that more than 6 million Americans have heart failure, with the prevalence expected to rise to 8.5 million by 2030. A chronic, lifelong condition, congestive heart failure occurs when your heart cannot pump sufficiently to supply enough blood to meet your body’s needs. Symptoms, which can develop slowly or can start suddenly, may include:

  • Shortness of breath when lying down or with activity.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Swelling (feet, ankles, legs, stomach).
  • Confusion or impaired thinking.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Inability to sleep.
  • Fatigue or generally feeling tired or weak.
  • Sudden weight gain.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, consult with your primary care doctor or make an appointment with a University Hospitals cardiologist by calling 216-810-4999.

The Congestive Heart Failure Clinic at UH Ahuja Medical Center is located at 3999 Richmond Road in Beachwood. For more information call 216-468-5234 or visit