The Growth Channel

States are pushing stroke program accreditation. Here are 2 ways to ensure your program remains competitive.

by Phoebe Donovan and Sebastian Beckmann

In recent years, stroke centers have felt an increasing sense of pressure to pursue accreditation. Not only has the number of stroke centers increased, but regulations are making it harder for unaccredited and even primary stroke centers to compete.

Interventional stroke volumes are on the rise. How should your stroke program respond?

For example, in July, Florida passed a bill that will require centers to be certified in order to be listed as agency-approved. Similarly, about half of states are developing bypass regulations that will mandate EMS to take stroke patients with suspected large vessel occlusion (LVO) to a certified thrombectomy capable center, even if that means bypassing a closer, lower-level center.

Accreditation used to be an avenue for organizations to differentiate their stroke programs and gain share. Today, the pursuit of accreditation has become a matter of necessity for many organizations, but one that doesn't necessarily provide the same clout.

To compete, programs will need to go beyond accreditation and create a comprehensive program differentiation strategy. We've outlined two specific tactics to consider below.

1. Patient outreach

Despite its emergent nature, about half of stroke patients arrive at a hospital by means other than EMS.  It's therefore vital for programs to have a number of campaigns that aim to both raise awareness about stroke and keep the organization's name top of mind.  

  • Community education: According to research on stroke recognition campaigns. web-based interventions are most effective when they are long-term and employ a variety of different media such as written pamphlets, television advertising, and web-based learning. Also consider launching in-person education efforts in local meeting places or supporting local patient screenings. Doing so teaches high-risk patients where to go if they experience stroke symptoms and familiarizes key populations with the organization's brand.

  • Marketing: Identify how your hospital stands out from the rest of the pack aside from accreditation. Do you offer supplementary services like patient and family support groups or a dedicated rehabilitation program? Has your team earned a Get with the Guidelines award for providing high-quality care? These accolades should be easily found on your program's website as well as accompany any external marketing campaigns.

2. EMS outreach

It's imperative that hospitals cultivate strong relationships with EMS providers, considering them as a natural extension of the care team rather than a distant partner. The greater the involvement of EMS, the less likely a hospital will be bypassed for reasons other than accreditation. Consider the following strategies used by other Advisory Board members:

  • Host a multi-day stroke education session for local EMS groups on timely stroke care and their role in the care pathway;

  • Follow-up with EMS on patient outcomes to boost engagement and encourage pre-notification when patient is en-route to the hospital;

  • Involve EMS leader on organizations' stroke committee to help develop EMS protocols; and

  • Establish bi-directional communication streams to keep EMS up-to-date with organizations' quality improvement efforts and allow EMS to provide feedback on the hospital's coordination efforts.

While an accreditation may no longer be the only key to stroke program success, accompanying it with innovative education, marketing, and outreach initiatives can help an organization stand out from the pack.

Has your organization developed other differentiation strategies that you'd be willing to discuss with our research team? Let us know! We can be reached at donovanp@advisory.com.

Should your stroke center become TSC-certified? Here's how to decide.

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Until recently, Comprehensive Stroke Centers (CSCs) have monopolized the market for mechanical thrombectomy—a fairly progressive neurointerventional procedure used to treat ischemic stroke. But this is changing partly because of the Joint Commission's new Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center (TSC) certification.

Here are four questions your organization needs to ask before you decided to pursue the Joint Commission's new Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center (TSC) certification.

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