Stroke Outcomes Measures Must Be Appropriately Risk Adjusted to Ensure Quality Care of Patients: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association

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Because stroke is among the leading causes of death, disability, hospitalizations, and healthcare expenditures in the United States, there is interest in reporting outcomes for patients hospitalized with acute ischemic stroke. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, as part of its commitment to promote high-quality, evidence-based care for cardiovascular and stroke patients, fully supports the development of properly risk-adjusted outcome measures for stroke. To accurately assess and report hospital-level outcomes, adequate risk adjustment for case mix is essential. During the development of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 30-day stroke mortality and 30-day stroke readmission measures, concerns were expressed that these measures were not adequately designed because they do not include a valid initial stroke severity measure, such as the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale. These outcome measures, as currently constructed, may be prone to mischaracterizing the quality of stroke care being delivered by hospitals and may ultimately harm acute ischemic stroke patients. This article details (1) why the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services acute ischemic stroke outcome measures in their present form may not provide adequate risk adjustment, (2) why the measures as currently designed may lead to inaccurate representation of hospital performance and have the potential for serious unintended consequences, (3) what activities the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has engaged in to highlight these concerns to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other interested parties, and (4) alternative approaches and opportunities that should be considered for more accurately risk-adjusting 30-day outcomes measures in patients with ischemic stroke.

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