Via Christi has been recognized by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, the second healthcare organization in Kansas to join this elite group.
“Earning this accreditation underscores the great leadership and teamwork we are seeing throughout Via Christi by our physicians and nurses as they work together to make Via Christi the best place to practice and the best place to receive stroke care,” says Jeff Korsmo, chief executive officer and ministry market leader for Ascension Via Christi, part of Ascension.
Comprehensive stroke centers are recognized as industry leaders and are responsible for setting the national agenda in highly specialized stroke care.
Ascension Via Christi St. Francis underwent a rigorous onsite review in January, during which Joint Commission experts reviewed its compliance with the Comprehensive Stroke Center standards and requirements, including advanced imaging capabilities, 24/7 availability of specialized treatments, and staff with the unique education and competencies to care for complex stroke patients.
Leading Via Christi's accreditation effort were Saad Kanaan, MD, the board-certified neurologist who serves as medical director of the Via Christi Stroke Center; James Walker, MD, the board-certified neurocritical and critical care specialist and anesthesiologist who serves as medical director for St. Francis’ 20-bed dedicated neurocritical ICU; and Kumar Reddy, MD, the board-certified interventional radiologist who serves as medical director for neurovascular and interventional radiology. They did so in partnership with Via Christi nursing and administrative leaders.
“It takes a team and an integrated system of care that incorporates prevention and outreach education, research and rehabilitation services,” Dr. Kanaan says. “This accreditation indicates that we have that system of care, along with the extensive experience and resources needed to treat even the most acute stroke cases seven days a week, 24 hours a day.”
Achieving CSC certification is a significant step for Via Christi and the patients and families from throughout Kansas and the surrounding states it serves — one that’s part of a 10-year journey toward becoming a center of excellence for stroke care. That journey began in 2005 when Via Christi became the area’s first center to earn and maintain designation as a TJC-certified Primary Stroke Center.
In 2012, The Joint Commission, in collaboration with the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, introduced certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, or CSC — an even more elite standard of care.
For the patients and their families who come to Via Christi, the designation is an assurance that they are receiving treatment at a center that has all of the resources needed to provide the highest level of care.
But they aren't the only ones who benefit from a CSC-designated facility, as Via Christi has long partnered with healthcare professionals statewide to see that they have the stroke education and support they need to develop or enhance their stroke programs and community preparedness.
“Whether patients are seen in one of our ERs or access our stroke services through consultation with providers at their community hospital, they benefit from having access to a Comprehensive Stroke Center,” Dr. Kanaan says.
During its decade as a primary stroke center, Via Christi assembled the well-trained, specialized multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals needed for adult stroke patients — from front-line treatment staff and board-certified neurologists to professionals needed in ongoing after-stroke care, such as physical and occupational therapists and case managers.
Via Christi's Stroke Center team also has honed its ability to deliver timely and successful drug and surgical treatments for both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke patients, opened the region’s only dedicated neurocritical care unit, and acquired advanced imaging technologies.
During that time, Via Christi was recognized with a Silver Plus Award by the American Heart Association, one of two advanced levels of recognition for consistently complying with stroke treatment quality measures. In part, the award recognized Via Christi for its quickness in giving tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic strokes that occur when a vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed. If tPA is administered within three — or in certain cases within 4.5 — hours, it can greatly improve survival, rate of recovery and patients’ quality of life.
“It is well known that patient outcomes are largely dependent on how soon this medication is given,” Dr. Kanaan says.
National guidelines, set by the American Heart Association, recommend that hospitals administer IV tPA within 60 minutes of eligible patients’ arrival. In 2015, Via Christi's average door-to-needle time was less than 50 minutes.