Introduction: Between 2012-2015 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Program (PCNASP) funded 11 state health departments to improve the quality of stroke care across the continuum, beginning with the initial signs and symptoms of stroke through the transition from hospital to post-hospital setting.
Hypothesis: We assessed the hypothesis that PCNASP quality improvement activities enhanced the quality of pre-hospital stroke care transitions.
Methods: We conducted 72 semi-structured telephone interviews with stakeholders of the 11 PCNASP grantees, including program administrators, epidemiologists, quality improvement consultants, partners, emergency medical services (EMS) and hospital staff. Using grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss), we developed and applied a coding scheme to the interview transcripts to identify emerging themes related to pre-hospital quality improvement activities.
Results: Many PCNASP grantees provided training and support for EMS and hospital staff that improved calling of a stroke code team and recognition of stroke, improved EMS pre-notifications about suspected stroke patients, advanced hospital holding of CT scanners in anticipation of suspected stroke patients, and reduced door-to-CT and door-to-needle time. PCNASP grantees had different approaches to balancing timeliness and quality of care. Some grantees developed statewide destination protocols that required EMS to bypass proximate hospitals for certified stroke care hospitals. Other grantees had challenges implementing statewide destination protocols because EMS agencies were decentralized with local authority to determine where to transport patients. In other cases, grantees promoted a “drip and ship” model where EMS transported patients to proximate hospitals for IV-tPA and then to a primary stroke center and focused on increasing the reach of stroke telemedicine.
Conclusion: PCNASP grantees developed promising practices to improve the quality of pre-hospital stroke care transitions that accounted for their unique state context. These approaches may become the basis for best practices for improving pre-hospital transitions of stroke care across the nation.