Let's begin with what we all should know about strokes. They can be deadly. They can be difficult to diagnose. Time is of the essence for effective treatment.
What we all should also know is that hospitals haven't traditionally done the best job caring for stroke patients. That's because many of them, especially small ones and those in rural areas, may not see very many of them in the course of a year. And recognizing stroke symptoms can be difficult.
Perhaps this is why the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is putting an emphasis on quality metrics. Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, hospitals must begin reporting on 17 areas and 76 new measures under CMS's Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program. Eight of those measures evaluate the care of stroke patients.
Providing those metrics will not be much of a challenge for big regional health systems such as the Bon Secours Virginia Health System, where Timothy Shephard, PhD, is vice president of the Bon Secours Neuroscience Institute, a primary stroke center.
But others will have difficulty, and that's where Shephard sees opportunity not only to educate about better stroke care, but to improve compliance at smaller hospitals.