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Health & Hospitals

May 3 - St. Joseph’s/Candler Honored by American Heart Association

SBJ Special Report

St. Joseph’s/Candler is the first hospital in the region to earn the 2010 American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines Stroke Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award.

This award recognizes that in the complicated ecosystem of a hospital, every department in a patient’s journey to recovery follows the highest-quality, evidence-based treatment techniques as recommended by the AHA, according to Paul P. Hinchey, President & CEO of St. Joseph’s/Candler. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.  On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds; someone dies of a stroke every three minutes; and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

“Last year SJ/C invested in technology to electronically bring our neurologists to rural hospitals like Effingham Hospital. But that investment would mean nothing if our physicians and nurses didn’t practice the best medicine,” according to Hinchey.

To receive the award, SJ/C achieved 85 percent or higher adherence to all Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Performance Achievement indicators for two or more consecutive 12-month intervals and achieved 75 percent or higher compliance with six of 10 Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Quality Measures, which are reporting initiatives to measure quality of care.

These measures include aggressive use of medications, such as tPA, antithrombotics, anticoagulation therapy, DVT prophylaxis, cholesterol reducing drugs and smoking cessation, all aimed at reducing death and disability and improving the lives of stroke patients.

“Every patient, every time is our mantra,” said Hinchey. “When a stroke hits, the more time is lost, the more brain is lost. That is why we’ve been committed to providing the most aggressive and proven stroke care available. This award shows that we’ve become one of the top hospitals in the nation for stroke care.”

Only two other hospitals in Georgia have earned Gold Plus status.

Dr. Frank Lafranchise, Neurologist and Medical Director of the SJ/C Stroke Program took part in a major clinical trial that showed two medical procedures to prevent future strokes are equally safe and effective overall. This nationwide trial of 2,502 participants, carotid endarterectomy (CEA), a surgical procedure to clear blocked blood flow and considered the gold standard prevention treatment, was compared to carotid artery stenting (CAS), a newer and less invasive procedure that involves threading a stent and expanding a small protective device in the artery to widen the blocked area and capture any dislodged plaque.

He credited the entire hospital for the award. “It’s everything from the EMS personnel through the emergency department staff through acute care and rehab,”Lafranchise said.

“It's like the pieces of a clock sitting on a table; unless the pieces are assembled and carefully calibrated, the machine doesn't work. The stroke management system we have at St. Joseph's/Candler is a well-designed and coordinated approach to stroke care. We want every patient to get optimal care based on best practice standards."

He also thanked his partners at Savannah Neurology Specialists for their commitment and hard work they put in to make the process work.

Dr. Lee H. Schwamm, M.D. of Boston serves as chair of the Get With The Guidelines National Steering Committee, and director of the TeleStroke and Acute Stroke Services at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“The full implementation of acute care and secondary prevention recommendations and guidelines is a critical step in saving the lives and improving outcomes of stroke patients,” he explained.

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 Get With The Guidelines–Stroke, customized patient education materials are made available at the point of discharge, 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.

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