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Via Christi receives recognition for stroke care excellence

GWTG stroke gold plus award

For a third consecutive year, Ascension Via Christi St. Francis has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus achievement award and its Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus award.

The awards – the highest given by the AHA/ASA – serve as a testament to Via Christi’s long-standing commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

“Being recognized at this level requires dedication and teamwork from everyone who sees the patient from transport to hospital discharge,” says Kristina Willour, program coordinator for Via Christi’s Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center

It also speaks to Via Christi's commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes for patients, says Jim Walker, MD, a board-certified anesthesiologist and neurocritical care specialist who has provided medical leadership for the program as it has developed for more than a decade.

"Every team member strives to remain on the cutting edge of the most advanced stroke care available so that patients in our region can benefit," says Dr. Walker.

Via Christi earned Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus recognition by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period. These measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients.

To qualify for Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus recognition, Via Christi had to meet quality measures developed to reduce the time between the patient’s arrival at the hospital and treatment with the clot-buster tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ischemic stroke. 

“This type of achievement doesn't happen overnight,” says Kevin Strecker, who serves as St. Francis hospital president and has helped lead the development of its stroke program, which when it achieved accreditation as a primary stroke center 14 years ago, was the first in the area to do so. "It takes years of investment of time and resources and a talented, multidisciplinary team of caregivers committed to continuous improvement.”

In 2016, St. Francis was certified by the Joint Commission as an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center, which is the highest level of stroke center certification and denotes centers that have a specialized stroke care team and round-the-clock protocols for treating even the most complex cases; it was recertified for another two years in January 2018.

Today, it continues to be one of only two Kansas hospitals and the only one in Wichita certified as a Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center, which typically is the largest and best-equipped hospital for treating any kind of stroke, stroke complication or other neuro-endovascular disease within a geographical area.

Today, it continues to be one of only two Kansas hospitals certified as an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center, which typically is the largest and best-equipped hospital for treating any kind of stroke, stroke complication or other neuro-endovascular disease within a geographical area.

St. Francis also is home to the region’s first dedicated neurocritical care unit — a 20-bed unit staffed by specially trained neuroscience nurse practitioners, physician assistants and bedside nurses and equipped with the advanced neuro-imaging and neurosurgery capabilities needed to treat ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes, aneurysms and other neuro-endovascular conditions.

The hospital’s faster door-to-treatment times, which lead to better patient outcomes, stem from efforts to help pre-hospital staff and staff from transferring facilities recognizes complex stroke situations so that they can let the Via Christi team know that an acute stroke care patient is in route.

In January 2017 — based on Via Christi's performance and designation as the area’s only Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center — the Sedgwick County Medical Society endorsed routing the most complex stroke patients to St. Francis. This pre-hospital notification, together with a direct-to-CT scanner protocol, is helping triage patients through the system much quicker resulting in improved door-to-puncture endovascular treatment times.

As a regional leader in stroke care, Via Christi also continues to work with other Kansas hospitals to build better systems of care by creating a statewide hospital network equipped to recognize, treat and transfer patients with stroke symptoms to a higher level of care in a timely manner. 


About Roz Hutchinson

Roz Hutchinson is a Wichita wife, mother and chief spoiler of six grandkids and three Chihuahuas, a die-hard women's basketball fan, and director of Communications and Public Relations for Ascension Via Christi.