A new ad that will premiere during the Super Bowl focuses on Strong Memorial Hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center. You can watch it here. We asked neurologist Curtis Benesch, M.D., M.P.H., and neurosurgeon Tarun Bhalla, M.D., Ph.D., about UR Medicine’s stroke care and what is being done to improve access for patients across the region.
What does SMH’s designation by the Joint Commission and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as a Comprehensive Stroke Center mean?
Benesch: Designation as a Comprehensive Stroke Center indicates that our center either meets or exceeds the highest standards of care required to provide timely and comprehensive care to patients with complex cerebrovascular disease. Our site has undergone rigorous site visits and annual reviews by the Joint Commission to ensure that we satisfy all the requirements for this designation, including metrics for primary stroke care, surgical stroke care, endovascular care, critical care, longitudinal outpatient care, research, education and outreach.
How does this designation differentiate the hospital from other stroke centers?
Bhalla: All Comprehensive Stroke Centers must provide neurosurgical care, endovascular care, and neuro-critical care. These efforts are enabled in part by a well-established interdisciplinary infrastructure of exemplary stroke care (EMS, emergency medicine, nursing, therapy, and rehabilitation). Although other sites in the region may provide some of these aspects of care, UR Medicine is the only certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in Rochester, reflecting our willingness to submit to the scrutiny of external review to ensure we meet those high standards. It is not just a label but rather a public affirmation of the breadth and depth of a large multidisciplinary team of providers working together.
What is being done to extend stroke care across the health system? For example, if you are a stroke patient and you arrive at a regional hospital supported by UR Medicine, what does that mean for the care you receive?
Benesch: We support all of our regional partners with immediate availability of consultations with experts in Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery, Stroke Neurology, and Neurocritical care. These experts can help in acute treatment decisions and, with our transfer center, can facilitate transfer of patients to Strong Memorial Hospital as needed. Furthermore, we have developed a coverage model to provide 24/7 telestroke consultation to hospitals across the region in an effort to enhance acute stroke care.
Providing timely, appropriate, and comprehensive care for stroke patients requires a high level of coordination and collaboration among caregivers. What is necessary to facilitate communication, coordination, and continuity of care across the team?
Bhalla: First and foremost, the team has to believe in the concept that the more of a difference that we can make up front, the better a stroke patient will fare in the long run. The care they receive from the first 911 call to when they arrive at the hospital is only the beginning of a journey that continues through operating room, neurocritical care, and rehabilitation and is one that will determine how much function a stroke victim will ultimately recover. We all play a part, but everyone must share the same vision. Internally, it means that all the groups that represent the continuum of care must continually focus on ways to improve communication and coordination. But this also requires building awareness and education within the community. People need know how to identify the signs of stroke and EMS providers need to know what to do and where to take patients.
What does the future hold for stroke care?
Bhalla: We are committed to continuing to find creative ways to deliver the highest level of stoke care to patients where and when they need it. This includes working with community providers and partnering with EMS to leverage the resources of our Comprehensive Stroke Center to diagnose and potentially begin treatment for stroke patients even before they reach the hospital.