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Joint Commission Awards Tuality Healthcare Groundbreaking Stroke Certification

March 16, 2011

For immediate release
Contact:  Gerry Ewing / 503-681-1654

Tuality Healthcare, western Washington County’s premier health care provider, is now a certified primary stroke center. The Joint Commission, a national organization that investigates and certifies hospitals across the country in numerous areas of care, announced the prestigious Certification of Distinction for Advanced Primary Stroke Centers in a recent communication with hospital administrators.

What this means for western Washington County citizens is they will receive the best care possible in the event of stroke symptoms at Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro. “The certification is an assurance of excellent quality stroke care,” said Dr. Daniel K. Friedman, MD, a neurology specialist, Tuality Stroke Center director, and one of three members of Tuality Healthcare’s stroke team. Dr. Barbara J. Hills, MD, and Dr. Wan-jui Chen, MD, are the two other stroke team neurologists.

The Stroke Program at Tuality has elevated the care of acute stroke patients to “another level,” said Dr. Thomas Gilberts, MD, Tuality’s chief medical officer and stroke center task force chairman. “We have a long history of providing excellent stroke care,” he said. “This formalized program provides a mechanism to measure and further improve our system. It has allowed us to standardize the evaluation and treatment in the inpatient and outpatient settings.”

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Stroke Association. It is also a leading cause of serious, long-term disability. In its simplest terms, stroke is the interruption of blood flow to the brain. Having a certified primary stroke center in Hillsboro is huge for the residents of western Washington County. In stroke cases, Friedman said, the faster the diagnosis and treatment, the better the chance of limiting brain damage and potential long-term disability.

“The Stroke Center Task Force developed and reviewed systems, protocols, policies, procedures and guidelines to ensure that our stroke program provided the most efficient, standardized and evidence-based assessments and treatments,” Friedman said. It is a “meticulous, step-by-step review and analysis,” Gilberts said, that allows hospital administrators to ferret out issues that might need optimization. A multi-disciplinary stroke center task force of about 25 Tuality staff members and physicians spent countless hours evaluating and optimizing the stroke treatment program for the Joint Commission certification review.

The certification applies for two years. The Joint Commission team will return in 2013 to reassess the certification. As of Jan. 1, 2011, over 800 hospitals nationwide are certified primary stroke centers.

One area of care that impressed the Joint Commission team, and which Friedman and Gilberts termed “spectacular,” is what is called “door to needle time.” The measurement involves the time from when a patient arrives at the hospital to when a clot-busting drug is injected to help dissolve the blood clot that might be causing the stroke. “Our times were very, very impressive,” Friedman said.

Seventy-one percent of the patients with a principal diagnosis of stroke had a “door to needle time” of less than 60 minutes during 2010 at Tuality Community Hospital, according to Pam Micalowski, stroke nursing coordinator. The national average is around 25 percent, she said.

The time between arrival at the hospital and the decision on the need for a clot-busting drug, or “needle,” is filled with tests – laboratory tests, blood pressure checks, possible CAT scan and MRI tests, and consultation with a member of the stroke treatment team. The 71 percent figure for “door to needle time” of 60 minutes or less is a testament to the efficiency of the Tuality team of healthcare professionals treating a stroke victim.

Recognizing the signs of stroke and calling 9-1-1 for immediate transport to a hospital are crucial aspects of stroke treatment. Dr. Friedman recommends that everyone should be able to recognize the signs of a stroke by learning and using the acronym F.A.S.T. F stands for checking for facial droop or an uneven smile; A stands for checking for arm numbness or weakness; S stands for recognizing slurred speech or difficulty speaking as a stroke sign; and T stands for time to the hospital. If you see any of these signs, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.