Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center announced a new agreement Thursday with Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital — Plano for specialty cardiovascular consulting services. Under the agreement, doctors in Sherman will be able to use imaging technology to collaborate with specialists in Plano to evaluate the cardiac needs of patients and refer them to Plano if surgery is necessary.

Hospital officials said this agreement would be for specialty cardiac care, including catheterization and open-heart services, and would not include more common cardiac services.

“As you are probably aware, the Baylor Scott & White hospital is a very highly-rated organization,” WNJ CEO John Rossfeld said Thursday. “I think it is the No. 1 hospital for heart care in North Texas, is ranked very highly with U.S. News and World Reports. So that means our patients that will need heart care beyond our capabilities here will have access to one of the best hospitals in the country.”

Through the new partnership, cardiologists in Sherman will be able to teleconference with specialists at BSW for additional expertise and opinions on cases. Rossfeld said this would be similar to tele-medicine — a recent practice that allows doctors to remotely provide medical expertise while away from a patient. However, this would be more between two physicians rather than a patient and doctor, he said.

As an early example, Rossfeld said the hospital recently received a patient who was suffering a heart attack. Through consulting with doctors in Plano, WNJ physicians were able to determine the patient needed immediate surgery. Less than two hours later, the patient was receiving care in Plano, Rossfeld said.

“I think basically, between the two of us, we saved the patient’s life,” he said, adding that through the care and treatment in Sherman, hospital officials in Plano were already briefed and prepared for the patient.

The partnership between the hospitals comes after a 20 year decline in the demand for cardiac surgery with the growth of interventionary cardiovascular care and the use of stints and catheters. As such, Rossfeld said it was impractical for the hospital to maintain these services in house.

“As with any of today’s medical specializations, there are some sub-specializations that not everybody can provide,” he said. “As a hospital in an our-sized community, we couldn’t afford, nor would it be appropriate for us to have some of the tech backup that we have through the heart hospital.”

Additional changes with the hospital’s staffing also led to the decision to partner with BSW for specialized services, Rossfeld said. Previously, the hospital did offer similar specializations, he said.

“The cardiac surgery would have probably been done here at the hospital, but because the cardiovascular surgeons that we had decided to consolidate their practices, we don’t have that specialty service at Wilson N. Jones,” he said. “The physicians who provided our cardiac surgery also provided that care at TMC (Texoma Medical Center) and because of their schedule and what works best for them as practitioners, they felt they they wanted to consolidate their activity and practice at TMC.”

Jennifer Reed, media & advertising coordinator for TMC, said she believes Rossfeld’s comments pertain to three full-time surgeons she believes previously also had access at WNJ. However, she noted that was the case years ago.

Beyond providing consulting services, Rossfeld said the agreement had other benefits for the hospital and the Texoma region. With the consulting agreement, Rossfeld said local physicians with the hospital will be able to learn and receive education from specialists with BSW, enabling them to provide better service locally. The heart hospital also agreed to look into opening specialty clinics in the area so patients can receive specialized care closer to home.

“We think this is going to be a real tremendous benefit to our patients and to the community to tie in with The Heart Hospital,” Rossfeld said.