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Henry Medical Center gets distinctive medical award

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Henry Medical Center has received the American Stroke Association's Get With The Guidelines Bronze Performance Achievement Award.

The GWTG award recognizes hospitals' commitment to, and success in, implementing a higher standard of stroke care, by ensuring that stroke patients receive treatment according to nationally accepted standards and recommendations.

"We're always wanting to make sure that we provide the best medical care possible to patients," said Angela Dennis, the hospital's director of Respiratory Therapy and Neuro-diagnostic Services.

"That's the type of care we provide to our patients. We want to use what is called 'evidence-based' medicine. And GWTG is the most up-to-date information we have on health care."

Henry Medical Center, a 215-bed, not-for-profit, community hospital in Stockbridge, has developed a comprehensive system for rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients. It includes always being equipped to provide brain-imaging scans, having neurologists available to conduct patient evaluations and using clot-busting medications when appropriate.

"It's a quality improvement program that's nationwide that the American Heart Association sponsors," said Mary Robichaux, vice president of AHA's Quality Improvement Initiative. "It really is a great achievement that they've done."

Henry Medical Center is one of 200 hospitals to be honored with the award of the more than 1,500 participating hospitals nationwide.

"This is a very good program," Dennis said. "Some of our processes we've changed to identify some of our stroke patients. We do what we may not have done a couple of years ago. It has allowed us to treat these patients a little more quickly than we may have in the past."

To receive the GWTG-Stroke Bronze Performance Achievement Award, the hospital had to consistently follow treatment guidelines in the GWTG-Stroke program for 90 days. The guidelines include aggressive use of medications like antithrombotics, anticoagulation therapy, DVT prophylaxis, cholesterol reducing drugs -- and smoking cessation. The 90-day evaluation period is the first in an ongoing self-evaluation by the hospital to continually reach the 85 percent compliance level needed to sustain the award.

According to the American Stroke Association, each year approximately 700,000 people suffer a stroke - 500,000 are first attacks and 200,000 are recurrent attacks. Of stroke survivors, 21 percent of men and 24 percent of women die within a year, and for those aged 65 and older, the percentage is even higher.

"The American Stroke Association commends Henry Medical Center for its success in implementing standards of care and protocols," said Lee Schwamm, M.D., national Get With The Guidelines Steering Committee Member and director of 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."

GWTG-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 stroke.

Through GWTG-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 GWTG Patient Management Tool provides access to up-to-date cardiovascular and stroke science at the point of care.

"I think as we continue to move forward in our program, we will continue to see positive results in our patients and in our community," added Dennis.