4/19/2010 - NorthShore University HealthSystem’s (NorthShore) Highland Park Hospital has earned the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers. Highland Park Hospital earned this distinction after the Joint Commission conducted an unannounced on-site review in March.

“Highland Park Hospital demonstrated that its stroke care program follows national standards and guidelines that can significantly improve outcomes for stroke patients,” says Jean E. Range, M.S., R.N., C.P.H.Q., executive director, Disease-Specific Care Certification, Joint Commission.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. It is the third leading cause of death and the number one cause of adult disability in the United States. A stroke is also known as a “brain attack,” and can damage the brain as a heart attack can damage the heart. Oftentimes speech, movement and memory are affected by strokes because the cells die in the part of the brain that controls these abilities.

Daniel Homer, MD, medical director of the NorthShore Stroke Program, says one of the most effective methods to reverse a stroke is treatment with a drug – tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) – which must be administered intravenously within hours of symptom onset.

“Very few stroke victims are treated today in the U.S. with tPA, a clot buster, because of the obstacles to treatment. The narrow ‘time window’ for administering tPA requires a very rapid response time by the public, by 9-1-1 responders, by the emergency department staff, and by stroke specialists,” said Dr. Homer. “The concepts behind Primary Stroke Centers include a heightened state of readiness for stroke patients, making sure hospital-wide mechanisms are in place to rapidly identify and intervene in acute stroke and a multi-disciplinary team who can deliver rapid and sophisticated care.”

The Highland Park Hospital Primary Stroke Center includes an Acute Stroke Team for rapid diagnosis and treatment. It is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by a team of neurologists led by Dr. Homer and James Castle, M.D., medical director of the Stroke Unit at Highland Park Hospital. Both doctors are fellowship-trained stroke neurologists.

Highland Park Hospital President Jesse Peterson Hall believes having a dedicated Stroke Unit will help ensure that patients benefit from advances in knowledge of stroke treatment. “This certification distinguishes Highland Park Hospital as a leader in providing superb care that meets or exceeds best practices for improving the quality of life for our patients.”

Hall noted that this announcement comes on the heels of Highland Park Hospital being named to the Leapfrog Group’s Top Hospitals list for 2009 – the most complete and current national assessment of hospital efficiency, quality and safety available. The hospital also recently earned the 2009-2010 American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence in the Intensive Care Unit. In addition, NorthShore University HealthSystem recently received Magnet recognition and is the only organization in Illinois to receive this prestigious designation as a system. The award, given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), recognizes healthcare organizations that demonstrate excellence in nursing and high standards of patient care.

For stroke certification designation, Highland Park Hospital was required to meet stringent Joint Commission criteria based on recommendations by the Brain Attack Coalition. Some of the criteria include: an Acute Stroke Response Team – available 24/7/365 – that can administer tPA promptly and appropriately; integration of EMS providers into the transport, care and early notification to the Emergency Department of in-coming stroke patients; an Emergency Department staff that is trained to triage stroke patients similarly to trauma patients and to immediately activate the Acute Stroke Team; a Stroke Unit with a specially trained nursing staff and high-acuity clinical and technical monitoring of the stroke patient.

The Auxiliary of NorthShore University HealthSystem at Highland Park Hospital was instrumental in the formation and certification of the Primary Stroke Center at Highland Park Hospital, donating $400,000 for this important community benefit. Working as a volunteer group since 1921, the Auxiliary raises funds for and provides service to Highland Park Hospital while promoting awareness of hospital programs within the community. The funds were raised primarily through the Annual Appeal and the Alcove Gift Shop.

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