Emory University Hospital (EUH) has been awarded Primary Stroke Center Certification for its rapid response in diagnosing and treating stroke patients using a multi-specialty approach, and for its exceptional efforts to foster better outcomes for stroke care. The hospital recently earned the distinction from the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
"Certification is national recognition of our excellence in caring for patients with stroke," says Michael Frankel, MD, professor of neurology, Emory University School of Medicine, and co-director of the Emory MBNA Stroke Center. "Achieving excellence in stroke care at EUH requires a highly coordinated and interdisciplinary effort involving many individuals from almost every department in the hospital. No single person can receive the credit. Everyone who cares for patients with stroke at EUH should be congratulated on their efforts for continuously providing outstanding care."
The certification signifies that the Emory MBNA Stroke Center complies with national standards in the implementation of established clinical practice guidelines, performance measurements and continuous improvement programs for the care of stroke patients. Thus far, only 14 hospitals in Georgia have achieved this distinction.
Emory's multi-specialty approach in caring for stroke patients means treatment begins as soon as they arrive in the emergency room. "When someone comes in with signs of a stroke, we send out a page to our stroke team and all hands are immediately on deck," says Marilyn Margolis, RN, director of nursing for emergency services and neurosciences, Emory University Hospital. "Specialists in neurology, neurosurgery, interventional neuro-radiology, neuro-critical care, pathology (for blood work analysis), emergency medicine, nursing and others convene to assess and treat the patient as soon as possible." Margolis goes on to say that just by bringing the patient to a hospital that specifically treats stroke can begin the life-saving process.
Immediate treatment is essential if someone is having a stroke because "time lost is brain lost," according to the American Stroke Association. Stroke is the nation's number three cause of death, and a leading cause of serious, long-term disability. About 700,000 Americans will have a stroke this year and 168,000 of them will die. Georgia is in the heart of the "Stroke Belt," which records a higher incidence of death and disability due to stroke than any other region in the country.
The stroke program at EUH has 23 neuro ICU beds for stroke patients, along with five neuro step-down or intermediate care beds. It also has 41 acute care floor beds. In December of this year, an expanded, state-of-the-art neuro ICU will open for stroke patients and other patients with intensive neurological needs.
"The benefit of neurocritical care for patients who are admitted to EUH with stroke has been truly remarkable," says Owen Samuels, MD, assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of NeuroCritical Care at Emory. "Patients are spending less time in the ICU, having fewer complications and are more likely to be discharged home from the hospital rather than going to a nursing home."
"We have one of the few, if not the only, true neuro-critical care teams in the state and the region," says Daniel Barrow, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory and co-director of the Emory MBNA Stroke Center. "Because of this multidisciplinary approach, patients suffering from stroke, intracranial aneurysms, and other neurological conditions can expect only the top care at Emory."
Emory doctors and staff have been at the forefront in helping hospitals across the state improve stroke care through The Paul Coverdell Stroke Registry. Since its creation in 2001, the registry tracks the impact of stroke and available treatment for patients admitted with stroke throughout Georgia, in an effort to reduce death and improve outcomes after stroke. This registry was instrumental in data collection and quality improvement for Emory's certification.
"The Stroke Center Certification demonstrates that Emory is committed to providing outstanding and quality stroke care to our patients and our community," says Robert Bachman, Chief Operating Officer, Emory University Hospital. "This specialty service is designed to meet the unique and specific needs of stroke patients and their loved ones."
The Joint Commission's Primary Stroke Center Certification program was developed in collaboration with the American Stroke Association. JCAHO soon will begin its certification process for comprehensive stroke centers, and the Emory MBNA Stroke Center will apply for that designation, as well.