"What does a “comprehensive stroke center” even mean, anyway. For something as serious as stroke, isn’t the care you get at hospitals pretty much the same?"

Ellen P
Kansas City, MO

Our Response

We know sometimes designations and awards just seem like the healthcare community is patting each other on the back, but they really play an enormous role in improving patient care. Here’s one example – Research Medical Center recently became the first HCA Midwest Health hospital to earn The Joint Commission and American Heart and Stroke Association’s Comprehensive Stroke Designation.

Like other HCA Midwest Health hospitals, Research Medical Center was already a Designated Stroke Center. To earn that designation, hospitals need to consistently meet certain standards of care and patient outcomes. But the dedicated healthcare teams at Research Medical Center wanted to do more to improve patient care. They were rewarded for their success by becoming one of only 129 hospitals nationwide to earn the designation of Comprehensive Stroke Center.

“Comprehensive Stroke Certification is the highest level of stroke certification available – it is an extraordinary achievement for Research Medical Center,” said Research Medical Center CEO Jackie DeSouza-Van Blaricum. “But beyond that, it’s a wonderful testament to how committed HCA Midwest Health hospitals are to improving care for the communities we serve.”

When stroke symptoms strike, seconds matter and getting the proper treatment by a highly-organized and experienced team can make a tremendous difference for patients. If patients go to a Primary Stroke Center needing complex stroke care, they are usually transferred to a Comprehensive Stroke Center. You can find a full comparison of all the stroke designations on this The Joint Commission chart. But here’s a summary of the biggest differences.

Comprehensive Stroke Designation
vs Primary Stroke Center

Care for All Types of Stroke

Primary Stroke Centers treat ischemic stroke, which means that a blood vessel is blocked, closing off blood supply to the brain. Comprehensive Stroke Centers have the staff, training and facilities to provide state-of-the-art care to all stroke patients—both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel in the brain breaking open, such as a ruptured aneurism.

Comprehensive Stroke Centers need to demonstrate both experience and expertise with large ischemic strokes, intracerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) and subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the compartment around the brain).

24/7 Access to Advanced Specialists, Tests and Procedures

Comprehensive Stroke Centers provide patients with 24/7 access to the expertly trained staff, equipment and facilities to perform advanced imaging tests, minimally invasive surgeries and advanced procedures (including neurosurgery, vascular neurology and endovascular procedures).

Research Medical Center’s team of stroke clinicians focus on immediate diagnosis and treatments that can stop stroke and brain damage. This includes performing endovascular coiling or surgical clipping procedures for aneurysm and administering IV-tPA for ischemic stroke.

Specialized Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Comprehensive Stroke Centers have dedicated neuroscience intensive care units (ICUs) with personnel and equipment specifically designed to help stroke patients recover. Stroke impacts the body’s ability to move or communicate. The neuro ICU team is specifically trained with alternative methods of care.

Additional Care Coordination & Review

At a Comprehensive Stroke Center, treatment is a partnership between emergency room physicians, neurologists, neurosurgeons, interventional radiologists, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, CT technicians and local EMS providers.

Every aspect of stroke care goes above and beyond, including:

  • Coordinating post-hospital care for patients
  • Participating in stroke research
  • A peer-review process to evaluate and monitor the care provided to stroke patients
  • Collecting and analyzing key stroke treatment measures to continually improve treatment plans
  • Additional training each year for stroke team members
  • At least 80 percent of the emergency room staff is educated on acute stroke protocols

Improving Outcomes

The Comprehensive Stroke Center designation (introduced in 2012) is provided through a partnership between the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and The Joint Commission, the nation's largest independent healthcare evaluation body.  

“HCA Midwest Health is committed to continually improving the quality of care we provide patients in the Kansas City region. Pursuing and attaining advanced certifications is one of the tools we use to do that,” said stroke program medical director Iftekhar Ahmed, MD. “Exceeding nationally-established benchmarks from the AHA and Joint Commission demonstrates the quality of stroke care we offer patients and those who trust us with their patients.”

The results of these improvements can be seen at Research Medical Center where data demonstrates patient outcomes are better and complications are lower than the national average.

Understanding Stroke Risk

You don’t have complete control over your stroke risk. Some things, like family history, can’t be changed. But there are many more risk factors you can control. Find out your risk, plus ways to lower your risk, with this free assessment.

Learn Your Stroke Risk

Act F.A.S.T For Stroke Signs & Symptoms

Seconds count in recognizing the signs of a stroke and getting help. The National Stroke Association recommends using the acronym F.A.S.T to remember the warning signs:

  • Face—one side of the face droops. It’s most noticeable when a person smiles.
     
  • Arms—raise both arms above the head, one arm drifts downward.
     
  • Speech—slurred or strange words. Ask the person to repeat a short phrase.
     
  • Time—seconds count, call 9-1-1 immediately for any of these signs.

Remember, when in doubt, don’t wait and see – call 9-1-1 immediately.

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