Berlin, Md. – Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States – it takes credit for one of every 18 lives lost. In most cases, just a tiny blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain, robbing it of the oxygen supply it must receive continuously to function. Just one minute without this crucial blood flow can kill 2 million nerve cells and 14 billion synapses.
If proper treatment is begun immediately, however, the devastating effects of stroke can be halted, even reversed, for many patients. That is why Atlantic General Hospital has focused so intensely on the treatment of this common killer that also blinds, paralyzes, robs the memory and slurs the speech of millions of Americans.
In 2007, Atlantic General became a primary stroke center for Worcester County and neighboring areas, designated for its ability to provide optimal care for patients who have suffered a stroke. The center has a designated staff and features a comprehensive system for rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients admitted to the emergency department. The staff is always prepared to provide brain imaging scans, and neurologists are on hand to conduct patient evaluations and using clot-busting medications when appropriate.
As a result of its efforts to provide the best possible care to the rural area it serves, Atlantic General’s stroke center was recently awarded the American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®–Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award, the organization’s highest recognition for stroke care.
To receive the award, Atlantic General needed to achieve 85 percent or higher adherence to all Get With The Guidelines–Stroke achievement indicators for at least two consecutive 12-month periods. This is the second year that the hospital has reached these benchmarks. In fact, the hospital achieved between 91 and 100 percent on all indicators.
Achievement indicators are evidence-based treatments known to result in improved patient outcomes. They include appropriate use of guideline-based care for stroke patients, including clot-busting and anti-clotting medications, blood thinners and cholesterol-reducing drugs, preventive action for deep vein thrombosis and smoking cessation counseling.
The Plus portion of the Gold Plus Award also represents a minimum of 75 percent compliance with other specific quality measures for at least twelve consecutive months
For providers, the Get With The Guidelines–Stroke program offers quality-improvement measures, discharge protocols, standing orders and other measurement tools. Providing hospitals with resources and information that make it easier to follow treatment guidelines has been shown to improve the quality of care provided to stroke patients. This can help save lives and ultimately reduce overall healthcare costs by lowering readmission rates for stroke patients.
For Atlantic General’s patients, Get With The Guidelines–Stroke uses the “teachable moment,” the time soon after a patient has had a stroke, when they are most likely to listen to and follow their healthcare professionals’ guidance. Studies demonstrate that patients who are taught how to manage their risk factors while still in the hospital reduce their risk of a second heart attack or stroke.
Through the Get With The Guidelines–Stroke program, customized patient education materials are made available at the point of discharge from Atlantic General, based on patients’ individual risk profiles. The take-away materials are written in an easy-to-understand format and are available in English and Spanish. In addition, the Get With The Guidelines Patient Management Tool gives healthcare providers access to up-to-date cardiovascular and stroke science at the point-of-care.
According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one in every 18 deaths in the United States, and is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.
For more information on Get With The Guidelines, visit www.americanheart.org/getwiththeguidelines
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