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Innovation with Every Beat


At Phoenix Children’s, doctors want to do more than see if a treatment simply works. “They want to know if it has the ability to bring about change in current care,” says Wayne J. Franklin, co-director of Phoenix Children’s Heart Center and Associate Director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program. This dedication to growth gives Phoenix Children’s a culture of advancement that benefits both its health-care procedures and the team of doctors that implement them.

Information is at the core of Phoenix Children’s Heart Center’s health-care research and innovation. The hospital pools data from its own surgeries and procedures with those from other national facilities, giving its doctors an understanding of how they are performing and how they can improve.

“Our data stand up with the best in the country,” says Franklin. “We do this to create transparency, so we can understand best practices.”

Phoenix Children’s also contributes to several large national databases. This allows the hospital to submit raw data and collate and compare it with the top 50 heart centres across the United States. Based on this data comparison, the Heart Center has adjusted some of its treatments and has been able to improve patient outcomes.


Turning data into solutions

Phoenix Children’s aims to stay at the forefront of medical treatments. Franklin and his team recently implanted their first CardioMEMS™: a small implantable sensor that measures pulmonary artery pressure to get an early warning of heart failure and sends the data directly to a physician. This was the first time in the state of Arizona that this device was implanted in a child. With support from the hospital, he was able to quickly show the device’s efficacy and get approval. The Phoenix Children’s Heart Center team also recently implanted the state’s first two transcatheter pulmonary valves (TPV), known as the Harmony™ valve. “Innovative patient care is at the centre of everything at Phoenix Children’s”, says Franklin.

Despite its name, the hospital also treats adults. “Not a lot of children's hospitals treat adults with congenital heart disease,” says Franklin. “But there are a lot of these patients in Arizona, and we treat many who have grown up with our Pediatric Cardiology Program. We continue to help them throughout their lives.” Phoenix Children’s Heart Center earned accreditation from the Adult Congenital Heart Association in 2021 and remains the only hospital in the state with this accolade.

The hospital focuses on doctors’ well-being as well as its patients. Daniel A. Velez came to Phoenix Children’s in 2012 to perform cardiac surgery. However, he realized that leadership development and upward mobility were not just possible but also actively encouraged. In less than a decade, he has become division chief for cardiac surgery and co-director of the Heart Center.

“A very attractive characteristic of Phoenix Children’s is the ability to grow professionally within your specialty and the hospital framework as a whole,” Velez explains. “The hospital seeks staff members’ opinions on how to improve operations or processes, and the leadership actually listens.”

Phoenix Children’s hopes that these qualities make it attractive to both established heart specialists and emerging cardiologists. The hospital also has a three-year Pediatric Cardiology Fellowship Program, and it hosts an annual Fetal Cardiology Symposium that delves into the latest advances in treatment and management of congenital heart disease.

“Whether a doctor is asking for more staff, new technology, hardware or software, it is really refreshing here because the answer is always positive,” says Franklin.