(RxWiki News) Time is of the essence when a heart attack occurs, and hospitals appear to be making strides to ensure quicker treatment. A new study shows that heart attack patients are being transferred and treated faster, which can lead to better outcomes.
Researchers also found that most medical centers are following standard quality procedures and policies that help ensure quicker artery-opening angioplasty.
"Immediately call 9-1-1 for heart attack symptoms."
James G. Jollis, MD, the study’s lead author and professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, emphasized that it is essential that competing hospitals and separate emergency medical service providers within a community work together to ensure optimal heart attack care.
Heart attack patients that receive treatment faster tend to fare better, especially when it comes to ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), a severe type of heart attack that involves complete blockage of a coronary artery.
During a STEMI heart attack, blood flow needs to be restored immediately to reduce a patient's risk of dying, either through clot-busting drugs or surgery to open the clogged blood vessel.
Between April 2008 and January 2010 researchers conducted a national survey of 381 STEMI systems, including 899 hospitals in 47 states.
The medical systems responding to the Mission: Lifeline survey included at least one hospital capable of surgically opening blocked arteries and one EMS group. About two-thirds of the systems were located in urban areas.
Investigators found that 97 percent admitted STEMI patients even if hospital beds were unavailable. In 92 percent of cases, the catheterization lab where angioplasty would be performed was activated with one call.
Emergency room doctors were allowed to activate the cath lab without a cardiology consultation in 87 percent of systems, while in 78 percent of cases it could be activated without a cardiology consult before a patient arrived at the hospital. Most of the systems also participated in a data collection registry to track efficiency and improve quality.
They also found that the largest barrier to implementing systems was competition among hospitals, with 37 percent reporting that difficulty. An additional 21 percent reported that competition among cardiology practices was a common barrier. Of the systems, 26 percent indicated EMS transport and finances made an efficient system tougher.
The findings were recently published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal.