University of Chicago Medicine first in Chicago to gain comprehensive stroke center status

October 11, 2013

October 11, 2013

The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association have recognized the University of Chicago Medicine as an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center, a new level of certification reserved for institutions with specific abilities to receive and treat the most complex stroke cases.

Complex Stroke Centers are recognized as industry leaders and are "responsible for setting the national agenda in highly-specialized stroke care," according to the Joint Commission. Certification recognizes those hospitals that have state-of-the-art infrastructure, staff and training to receive and treat patients with the most complex strokes.

UChicago Medicine is the first hospital in Chicago to earn this distinction. There is no higher stroke certification. 

"By achieving this advanced certification, the University of Chicago Medicine has thoroughly demonstrated the greatest level of commitment to the care of its patients with a complex stroke condition," said Mark R. Chassin, MD, FACP, MPP, MPH, president, The Joint Commission.

A team of expert Joint Commission surveyors evaluated UChicago Medicine and its stroke center July 29 and 30, 2013. On Oct. 3, the surveyors notified the medical center that it that it met or exceeded all comprehensive stroke center standards and requirements and had been granted comprehensive status.

"This is quite a distinction and a powerful confirmation of the strength of our multi-disciplinary team and their ability to work together to help complicated stroke patients," said Jeff Frank, MD, professor of neurology, director of neurocritical care, and co-director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at the University of Chicago Medicine.

"It also extends beyond our walls," he said. The Chicago area has the first coordinated pre-hospital network in the state in which ambulances take stroke patients directly to the closest primary stroke center. "An ambulance transporting a patient suffering from a severe stroke, who needs extremely specialized care, can elect to bypass even a primary center and go straight to the closest comprehensive center," he said.

Designation as an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center follows a rigorous application process that includes volume of cases, advanced imaging and care capabilities, around-the-clock availability of specialized treatments, dedicated neuro-intensive care beds for complex stroke patients, post-hospital coordination, participation in research, and staff with all necessary education and skills to care for the most complex stroke patients.

"Comprehensive stroke center accreditation by the Joint Commission is an important differentiator," said Eric Beck, DO, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and medical director of the EMS system for the City of Chicago (South). "It recognizes the University of Chicago Medicine's focus on providing the highest quality of care for stroke patients as well as an institutional commitment to the regional system of care."

The new comprehensive stroke center certification was developed by the Joint Commission in collaboration with the AHA/ASA. It derived from careful evaluation of nearly 40 years of published data on stroke-related care, clinical trial results, scientific guidelines and input from professional organizations.

"The goal of establishing this new level of certification is to recognize the significant differences in resources, staff and training that are necessary for the treatment of complex stroke cases," according to the Joint Commission. "We also anticipate that, over time, municipalities and regions will develop a formal referral network so the most complicated cases can be treated at the centers best equipped to provide the specialized care that can lead to better outcomes."

The benefits of an established and certified regional stroke-care system were confirmed by a recent city-wide study published online July 1, 2013, in JAMA Neurology. The researchers showed that implementation in 2011 of a 10-hospital stroke system more than doubled rapid access to state-of-the-art care for stroke patients, including a 30-minute reduction in onset-to-treatment time. "The effect was noted immediately following policy implementation," the authors wrote, "and has been sustained for nearly 2 years."

Each year, nearly 1 million people in the United States are hospitalized by stroke, which was the fourth-leading cause of death in 2010.

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