Deborah Courson Smith
DENVER – Heart disease and stroke are, respectively, the first and fourth most common causes of death in Colorado. When they strike, quick and high-quality care can make the difference between life and death.
The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee will take up a bill Thursday aimed at improving patient treatment by allowing the Department of Health to recognize hospitals with expertise in treating stroke and the deadliest form of heart attack – a STEMI, or ST segment elevation myocardial infarction.
Dr. Jeb Burchenal of the South Denver Cardiology Association said the state also would gather data about where heart attacks and strokes are happening, and how quickly patients receive treatment.
“The bottom line is, that’s what the bill’s trying to do – improve the quality of care for patients who have heart attacks in the state of Colorado,” he said. “As with anything, you can’t improve quality unless you measure it.”
Burchenal has been working with hospitals to encourage specialized treatment systems. While most are onboard, he said, some object to the idea. If the bill becomes law, participation is voluntary.
Mary Ann Orr of Greenwood Village was 32 when she suffered a stroke four years ago. She said she recognized the symptoms thanks to an episode of television’s “Oprah.” An ambulance took her to a hospital right away, but not one that specialized in stroke care – and her treatment was delayed six hours until she was transferred to a stroke center.
“I have lifelong deficits because of the stroke,” she said, “and I may not have those deficits had I been sent to the right hospital.”
The bill’s designations for specialized heart attack and stroke care would help emergency responders route patients to the best match for their condition. Time is of the essence for sudden cardiac arrest and stroke, Burchenal said, and treatment within two hours is ideal.
Text of the bill, SB 13-225, is online at leg.state.co.us.