Healthcare News & Insights

3 steps could improve outcomes of hospital heart attacks

Heart attacks are one of the conditions on Medicare’s hit list for hospitals – so preventing complications should be a top priority.

120876672High rates of readmission or death due to heart failure can bring about significant financial penalties for a hospital.

And patients who’ve already been admitted to the hospital typically have worse outcomes from heart attacks than those who visit the emergency room with symptoms.

In fact, a Wall Street Journal article discussing the issue contains a sobering statistic: Patients who have heart attacks after being hospitalized for an unrelated problem are at least three times more likely to die in the hospital as patients admitted for heart attacks through the emergency room.

This happens due to a combination of factors.

Reaction times are slower when a heart attack happens in the hospital since the patient’s symptoms may not be recognized as quickly, especially by non-cardiac doctors. Plus, patients who are already in the hospital and have heart attacks are typically in poor health to start with.

While this may make it tougher to achieve positive outcomes for these patients, it’s not impossible. One group of hospitals is testing out whether strategies that work for treating heart attacks in the emergency department can be adapted for use in other hospital departments.

Early, better recognition

Cardiologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) are teaming up with 11 other hospitals to implement a standardized process to identify and treat patients who have heart attacks in the hospital.

The process relies on three steps:

  1. Train nurses working in non-cardiac hospital departments how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack.
  2. Make sure clinicians order an ECG immediately for these patients to determine whether they have the telltale S-T elevation present in a major artery that signifies total blockage.
  3. If results are positive for a blockage, a rapid-response team must be immediately deployed to prepare a catheterization lab for treatment.

Helpful so far

Before expanding the program to other hospitals, cardiologists at UNC and another cardiac facility, The Minneapolis Heart Institute, tried similar interventions. Each hospital saw increased recognition of symptoms, faster treatment and better outcomes for patients.

So the UNC project has a fairly high likelihood of improving the health of patients who have heart attacks in hospitals.

Adopting a similar process in your facility could be beneficial. Just taking the extra step to remind all nurses and clinicians about the key symptoms of a heart attack can increase the odds that patients who have one in the hospital will get the treatment they need right away – before their condition gets worse.

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest healthcare news and insights delivered to your inbox.