As I wrote earlier, a close relative of mine recently had a stroke. Fortunately, we were able to get him to a designated stroke center with 30 minutes of the onset of his symptoms, which made all the difference. He is now recovering quite well but I keep thinking about how lucky we were that I knew which hospital was the right one to take him to. A few weeks earlier, I was talking to a friend of the family who is an EMT. He happened to mention that Hospital X was the best place if you have a heart attack while Hospital Y was the right place for a stroke victim. That turned out to be lifesaving information.
The value of knowing where to go for a stroke is reinforced in a study that came out today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Nearly 700 of the 5,000 acute care hospitals in this country are designated stroke centers that use specific criteria for treating patients. According to the JAMA study, patients who had an ischemic stroke and were sent to these stroke centers did better than patients who were sent to other hospitals. The difference was modest, the researchers said, but since this system of designating hospitals has only been implemented in the last decade, it's possible that as the system becomes more refined, the results will be even better. Telemedicine may also make it possible for non-stroke centers to provide higher levels of care, according to an accompanying JAMA editorial.