The Pipeline

What it takes to become a comprehensive stroke center


Emily Brown, Technology Insights

In September 2012, the Joint Commission introduced the much-anticipated certification program for Comprehensive Stroke Centers (CSC). The program recognizes progressive, high-volume stroke centers that offer advanced care options for patients. 

Only 61 hospitals in the country have achieved CSC designation to date, compared to 1,029 current primary stroke centers (PSC).

Stringent requirements for CSC certification build upon clinical and organizational requirements for PSC certification. Major differences between the two designations are outlined in the table below.



The most well-known difference between PSC and CSC designation is the ability to offer 24/7 neurointerventional coverage. However, CSC certification also requires a hospital to meet minimum patient volumes, participate in research studies, and place a heavy emphasis on post-acute care and the overall care continuum.


Benefits of CSC certification come at a high cost

Although CSC certification can be quite beneficial for the right hospital, it is only appropriate for institutions that have the financial resources to support such a progressive program. Here are a few of the key considerations in pursuing CSC certification:

Clinical—CSCs offer progressive treatment options, though these services can be provided without CSC certification. Required resources such as trained staff and dedicated critical care beds are associated with improved clinical outcomes for stroke patients.

Marketing—Certification brands a neuroscience program as multidisciplinary and progressive. Many CSCs establish a regional hub-and-spoke model with other local hospitals for stroke care, and these relationships can be leveraged to increase referrals across the neuroscience department.

Financial—Expenses include a multi-million dollar biplane angiography suite and recruitment of a highly specialized neurointerventional physician. Dedicated critical care beds can be costly and decrease the availability of these resources for non-stroke patients. Two-year certification fees total $55,000.

Ultimately, comprehensive stroke center certification is an important option for progressive primary stroke centers to consider.

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