Racing to Improve Treatment Times

Do our patients know the signs of a heart attack and what to do if someone goes into cardiac arrest? When every minute counts, are we meeting the standards for door to balloon (D2B) times? These are the questions the ACC’s North Carolina Chapter has focused on over the past decade in collaboration with hospital systems throughout the state.

The Regional Approach to Cardiovascular Emergencies (RACE) project was developed in 2003 as a statewide system for providing rapid artery reperfusion for patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). The RACE system is the largest state-wide STEMI system in the U.S. and incorporates the quality improvement efforts of over 100 hospitals, 700 emergency systems, and thousands of health care professionals working in a coordinated effort in order to improve timely reperfusion.

A recent study published in Circulation authored by NC Chapter Governor James Jollis, MD, FACC, who has been a champion on this issue, and colleagues looked at expanding regional coordination to the entire state of North Carolina. In doing so, rapid diagnosis and treatment of STEMI has become an established standard of care independent of health care setting or geographic location, and has resulted in improvements in timely coronary artery reperfusion.

Without a doubt, teamwork and grassroots efforts were needed to accomplish this streamlined effort. However, patient education and involvement is also a big component of helping to save lives.

The ACC, the NC Chapter and CardioSmart recently headed to Charlotte, NC, home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, to participate in the Coca-Cola 600. As recently updated CPR guidelines recommend compression-only CPR, representatives from the RACE program were on-site to give CPR demos teaching race car fans about the 5 C’s (check, call, compress, continue, connect) and how to save a life. Cardiac arrest is a prominent issue in North Carolina and will affect an estimated 8,000 North Carolinians this year, of which only 1 in 4 will receive bystander CPR and only 1 percent will have an AED used on them.

In addition to the CPR demos, blood pressure screenings and fact sheets on CPR and heart health were given to thousands of race car fans. Dr. Jollis and Philip Iuliano, MD, FACC, also took the stage during the track walk alongside NASCAR racers and discussed tips for avoiding heart disease, keeping active and living a healthy lifestyle. CardioSmart’s partnership with Coca-Cola has given the College numerous opportunities to increase awareness of heart health and get out into the community.

I am encouraged by state-wide efforts such as the North Carolina RACE program that focus on coordinating and improving treatment times. It goes to show that by working together through quality improvement programs and initiatives we really can make a difference.

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