Sharing Knowledge To Improve Cardiac Care Everywhere

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Larger hospitals are getting better and faster at stopping heart attacks in their tracks. Now, health organizations want to ensure patients get that same response at smaller, rural hospitals.

When a person suffers a heart attack, the saying goes, time is muscle. Joe Hopeck, cardiovascular services administrative director at Topeka's Stormont-Vail HealthCare, says that refers to the faster you interrupt a heart attack, the less damage is done to the heart muscle.

The College of Cardiology and American Heart Association set standards and award hospitals based on how quickly they can a patient from the emergency room doors to the cath lab and get the artery back open. Stormont-Vail recently earned the highest rating, a platinum award, for its heart attack care.

Hopeck says the national "door-to-balloon time" standard is 90 minutes and, at Stormont, they're consistently getting patients through to care in 50 to 60 minutes. They're also consistently meeting other standards in terms of using best practices in treatments and medications.

But now, the organizations want larger hospitals, like Stormont, to look beyond themselves. They're wanting to take their tracking back a step, to see how long it takes patients to get from the smaller hospitals to a larger facility where they get treatment to stop the heart attack.

Hopeck says Stormont is working with hospitals around the region, places like Sabetha, Seneca, Holton and Burlington, to standardize the process of how they respond when a person suffering a major heart attack seeks treatment. He says it's difficult to be familiar with protocols for a scenario which you might not see very often. Part of the work is developing a procedure unique to each community. The checklist would cover areas like who to call for assistance, what medications to start and contacting the fastest option for transportation to a larger medical center.

Hopeck says there won't be a one-size-fits-all manual because there are so many differences from county to county and hospital to hospital, but having a plan in place will make everyone a winner.