Background: As treatment of acute ischemic stroke (AIS) with IV tPA has become standard of care, smaller hospitals with limited resources have struggled to conform to consensus guidelines. To fill this practice gap, stroke systems of care were developed to support smaller, often rural, hospitals in providing standard stroke care to the patients they serve.
Methods: As a result of legislative support from the Coverdell-Murphy Act, the Georgia Coverdell Acute Stroke Registry (GCASR) in collaboration with the Georgia Office of EMS (GA OEMS), the Georgia Hospital Association (GHA), and other state partners, developed a method for designating hospitals as Remote Treatment Stroke Centers (RTSC). The primary focus of performance improvement was treatment with IV tPA in eligible patients. Data collection and process change were used to improve the following quality indicators: percentage of eligible AIS patients treated with IV tPA and number of stroke alert notifications. Hospitals were required to partner with an accredited stroke center and use telemedicine to support the decision for administering IV tPA. GA OEMS was charged with reviewing and surveying individual hospitals applying for RTSC status. The GCASR served as the central repository to facilitate data sharing and benchmarking across hospitals. An inter-hospital transfer tool was created for EMS providers, adopted by GA OEMS, and disseminated throughout the state to guide management of patients receiving IV tPA who required transfer from a RTSC to an accredited stroke center.
Results: Starting in 2014, pertinent information was distributed and assistance provided to the 24 RTSC eligible GCASR hospitals. At present, 4 hospitals have achieved designation; 1 hospital is pending survey; and several are considering application. In 2012-13 the now 4 RTSC hospitals gave IV tPA to 8 patients. In 2014-15 as these hospitals sought and achieved designation, this number rose to 24. During this same period, stroke alerts increased from 76 to 308.
Conclusion: A state-based public health stroke initiative is effective in facilitating the designation of RTSC and thereby improving the delivery of acute stroke care in underserved areas.