The Springfield Regional Medical Center recently acquired national certification after an extensive program to improve how quickly and effectively its staff can identify signs of a stroke and provide treatment.
The facility earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval after an onsite review earlier this year. It also earned the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark for Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers.
Those certifications are a signal that the hospital and its staff have updated policies and streamlined care to quickly identify signs of a stroke, said Michelle Adkins, director of clinical services for the hospital. Staff at the facility also regularly review patient outcomes to look for ways to continuously improve care, she said. Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S., and a leading cause of disability in the U.S., according to the American Stroke Association.
“That’s a lot of different people’s lives you can make a difference in,” Adkins said.
Acquiring the certifications meant working with staff and physicians to more quickly identify the signs of a stroke, said Ruth Shade, director of emergency services at SRMC. Those signs include facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and time to call emergency services, or FAST. Between the emergency room and in-patient facilities, the hospital typically discharges an average of about 35 potential stoke patients every month, Adkins said. That figure does not include patients who are sent to other facilities for care.
The quicker the diagnosis and treatment, the better outcomes patients typically have, Adkins said. Strokes occur when a vessel in the brain ruptures, or is blocked by a blood clot.
“With this, time is brain,” Adkins said. “It’s equally important to have that immediate reaction and intervention for a patient.”
Once a patient displays possible signs of a stroke, the staff’s goal is to identify, evaluate and begin treating patients within 60 minutes from when they arrive at the hospital, she said. Paramedics in the field are also trained to identify signs of a stroke, and can call ahead allowing staff to begin tests and treatment as soon as they arrive.
“We easily get a five to 10-minute head start when they call it in from the field,” Adkins said.
Moving patients quickly through that process meant changing some of the facility’s procedures and working with various teams to ensure patients are seen quickly. After the initial stoke alert is called, that typically involves initial tests, a CAT Scan, and an evaluation by a qualified neurologist at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
“It’s a very regimented time frame we work toward,” Adkins said.
Staff at Springfield Regional worked closely with Ohio State to achieve the certifications, Shade said. The Springfield facility purchased a telestroke machine several years ago for the emergency room that allows OSU experts that specialize in stroke care to remotely evaluate patients here using video equipment, CT scans and other software 24 hours a day.
But the hospital recently purchased an additional telestroke machine to ensure patients throughout the hospital can have access to trained neurologists more quickly. Patients who would benefit can also be flown quickly to Columbus for further treatment.
Leaders at SRMC decided to seek the stroke certifications more than two years ago because of the positive impact they believed it could have on patient outcomes locally, Adkins said. Staff also routinely provide information to make area residents more aware of the signs of a stroke by speaking to community groups and talking to residents at public events like the Clark County Fair.
“We look at our community and try to think about the best way to serve it,” Adkins said.