The clock starts ticking when the patient with chest pain walks through the emergency room door. It ends when the patient has their blocked artery opened with an angioplasty balloon. The goal is aggressive – 60 minutes from door-to-balloon in order to avoid as much heart damage as possible. At Mercy Medical Center of Northwest Arkansas, the average door-to-balloon time is 57 minutes.
This rapid diagnosis and treatment of patients with chest pain due to heart disease is one of the reasons Mercy has received a three-year accreditation as a Chest Pain Center with PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention) from the Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC) , a non-profit international society dedicated to improving care for patients with acute coronary syndromes - heart attacks. Only ten percent of hospitals nationwide the size of Mercy of Northwest Arkansas has achieved this level of accreditation. Only four hospitals in the state of Arkansas are CPC accredited.
“It validates the standard of care that we provide. We always strive to give the best care in whatever discipline but this is one added assurance that we provide a standard very few hospitals are able to deliver.”, says Brad Johnson, MD, Emergency Room Medical Director, “This is not a one-time stamp of approval. It’s a continuing process of improvement which includes us always striving to raise the standard of cardiac care for our patient.”
Mercy underwent a full-day site visit July 25, 2010 and received notification of accreditation on August 25, 2010. The accreditation is the culmination of a year-long process that included examining the hospital and its policies, processes and performance measures for diagnosing and treating patients with acute coronary syndrome.
“We learned so many things during this process, even down to how improved signage directing patients to the EMERGENCY Department can save time and save lives.” says Charlotte Rankin, RN, MHA, Executive Director, Cardiovascular and Imaging Services, “We now have red, highly visible EMERGENCY signs, we trimmed trees outside so they’re easier to see and improved interior wayfinding to the emergency department as well.”
According to the Society of Chest Pain Centers, an accredited Chest Pain Center is generally thought to provide better care, better prognosis, better quality of life, faster treatment and decreased length of stay in the hospital. In addition, accredited Chest Pain Centers better integrate the emergency department with the local emergency medical system to provide comprehensive care from emergency dispatch to cath lab.
Part of the accreditation process also requires support of community outreach programs that educate the public to promptly seek medical care if they display symptoms of a possible heart attack. More than 5 million Americans visit hospitals each year with chest pain.
Dr. Brad Johnson stresses that quick action is the most important factor if a patient has symptoms like chest discomfort, discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath, dizziness, light-headedness or fainting, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, sweating or unexplained weakness or fatigue. Women might have slightly different symptoms including a sense of impending doom, discomfort between the shoulder blades or clammy skin.
Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States with 600,000 people dying each year from heart disease.