Building on his previous success with outpatient cancer centers, Bernard Salick, MD, a California nephrologist and entrepreneur, is now in the process of launching Salick Cardiovascular Centers, where the emphasis will be on early diagnosis of what he calls a "chronic, catastrophic illness."

The centers, which will focus on facilities in New York and Southern California, are planned to be co-located with academic facilities and use academic-based physicians.

"I tend to focus on catastrophic illnesses, in which you better be going to see a good doctor or you're not going to survive," Salick, who lives in Los Angeles, told Diagnostics & Imaging Week.

In 1997, Salick Health Care, his group of 247 cancer centers, was sold to a Zeneca plc affiliate, now Astra-Zeneca (London) for $480 million. The centers were developed to offer a range of disease-state services including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, radiology, bone marrow transplantations, laboratory, pharmacy, gene therapy, free psychosocial services and access to a range of clinical trials.

And now he aims to offer just that level of comprehensive care to heart patients, or more specifically, those people who may think they are perfectly well but have plaque building in their vasculature.

As Salick said, "Usually, I go after the things not because I'm smart, but because they affect [me] or my family."

When one of his children developed cancer, he launched the Salick Cancer Centers to offer what he considered a better model of care for cancer patients. The genesis of his newly formed Salick Cardiovascular Centers was Salick's own diagnosis of cardiovascular disease with a nuclear stress test – a new test when it was administered in 2002, when he went in for a routine exam. A jogger all his life, no one had suspected him as a candidate for cardiovascular disease, because the traditional stress tests had normal results.

"That required me then to have an angiogram, and the angiogram showed that I had blockage in three blood vessels, though I had no [symptomatic] problems with my heart," Salick told D&IW. "So, I had cardiovascular disease unbeknownst to me or to anybody else."

And that is exactly the kind of patient – one just like himself – that he wants to visit the Salick Cardiovascular Centers. Think former President Bill Clinton, who apparently walked around with severe blockage until – after visits to different healthcare centers presenting with shortness of breath – his disease was discovered before it was too late for a remedy.

"Because of the tremendous advances in technology – the 64-slice CT [scanner], the CAT-PET, the MRI – it is now possible to noninvasively diagnose heart disease without having to do angiography," he said.

He also said that the trend was moving "more and more" to provide healthcare in an outpatient setting.

Salick Cardiovascular Centers, with a new model for the delivery of comprehensive cardiovascular services, is backed by $75 million in Series A funding from Warburg Pincus. The company will provide patients "immediate and ongoing access" – by that Salick means 24/7 care and access – to "innovative, high-quality, cost-effective and comprehensive" cardiovascular diagnostic and treatment services in a patient-friendly, primarily outpatient-based environment.

Along with that 24/7 open-door policy is expected to be an environment where patients "are all known" to the nurses and doctors who staff the centers.

"One in four Americans today has some form of cardiovascular disease, and the numbers are increasing. Among the significant factors influencing this are skyrocketing rates of Type II diabetes and obesity as well as an aging population. We also know that women often present differently than men and therefore require new insights and technologies to enable earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment," said Salick.

Salick Cardiovascular Centers will – in addition to early diagnosis and treatment – focus on changing lifestyle behaviors "to achieve the best outcomes for all patients," he said.

In affiliation with leading academic medical centers, Salick Cardiovascular Centers will bring together academic and clinical cardiovascular specialists and state-of-the-art technology. Salick is currently assembling and will shortly announce an experienced team of healthcare executives and clinicians.

Salick is also expected to announce, following the current ongoing discussions, where the initial centers will be located.

In addition to its core services, Salick Cardiovascular Centers will have a unique, disease-specific database that will enable the development of peer-reviewed best clinical protocols and practice guidelines, outcomes measurements, utilization review and cost/benefit analyses – information valuable not only to clinicians but also to employers, payors and pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and information technology companies.

Through its nationwide standardized clinical trials and research network, the company will offer patients access to investigational diagnostic and treatment options.

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