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Strategies for improving outcomes in the acute management of ischemic stroke in rural emergency departments: a quality improvement initiative in the Stroke Belt

Authors Jauch EC, Huang DY, Gardner AJ, Blum JL

Received 19 December 2017

Accepted for publication 14 March 2018

Published 16 May 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 53—59

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OAEM.S160269

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Andrew Yee

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Hans-Christoph Pape

Edward C Jauch,1 David Y Huang,2 Allison J Gardner,3 Julie L Blum3

1Department of Emergency Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA; 2Department of Neurology, Division of Stroke and Vascular Neurology, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA; 3QI Institute, Med-IQ, Baltimore, MD, USA

Background: The timely evaluation and initiation of treatment for acute ischemic stroke (AIS) is critical to optimal patient outcomes. However, clinical practice often falls short of guideline-established goals. Hospitals in rural regions of the USA, and notably those in the Stroke Belt, are particularly challenged to meet timing goals since the vast majority of primary stroke centers (PSCs) are concentrated in urban academic institutions.
Methods: Between May 2015 and May 2017, emergency department (ED) teams from 5 non-PSC hospitals in the Stroke Belt participated in a quality improvement (QI) initiative. The intervention included a baseline practice assessment survey, repeat audit-and-feedback cycles with patient data on AIS treatment timing, personalized Continuing Medical Education/Continuing Education-certified grand rounds sessions at each participating site with expert study faculty, targeted reinforcement of best practices, and follow-up to evaluate the benefits and limitations of the intervention.
Results: At the start of the initiative, clinical staff from participating EDs overestimated the proportion of patients with AIS who received alteplase within the guideline-recommended 60-minute door-to-needle window at their facility. At the end of the 6-month intervention period, significantly more patients were treated with alteplase within 60 minutes of ED arrival compared to baseline across the entire sample (1.9% of patients at baseline vs. 5.2% at 6 months; P < 0.01). Similarly, there was a trend toward a decrease in the percentage of patients whose alteplase treatment was initiated more than 60 minutes after their arrival at the ED (67.3% at baseline vs. 22.2% at 6 months).
Conclusion: Structured QI interventions that engage ED care teams to reflect on processes related to AIS diagnosis and treatment and deploy repeat audit-and-feedback cycles with real-time patient data have the potential to support an increase in the number of patients who receive alteplase within the guideline-recommended timeframe of 60 minutes from hospital arrival.

Keywords: AIS, neurology, CME, quality improvement, alteplase

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