By Emily Bregel, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.
Jul. 15–A newly created Tennessee stroke database will help improve treatment for one of the state’s leading killers, according to researchers and health advocates.
The stroke registry, created by legislation signed into law in June, will include stroke treatment and outcome data from as many Tennessee hospitals as possible, with an eye to identifying and improving weaknesses in stroke care, said Dr. Patti Vanhook, chairwoman of the stroke registry committee for the state’s stroke task force and assistant professor in the college of nursing at East Tennessee State University.
The university’s college of public health will start up and maintain the stroke registry, she said. Participation in the registry is voluntary and 15 Tennessee hospitals already have agreed to report stroke data to the registry.
Erlanger hospital’s Regional Stroke Center, which has collected its own stroke data for two years, is not yet signed up but will participate in the registry, said Pat Joly, stroke coordinator at Erlanger’s Regional Stroke Center.
“Where it’s going to help tremendously is in stroke prevention,” she said. “If you can identify what kind of strokes (are occurring) and where they are, you can concentrate your preventative (efforts) with those types of patients in mind.”
Memorial Hospital officials said the hospital will participate, and Parkridge Medical Center officials said they are currently reviewing the registry’s reporting requirements and most likely will participate in the program.
The stroke registry is one project of the state’s task force on stroke, which formed in 2005 as a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Hospital Association, the Quality Improvement Organization of Tennessee and the American Stroke Association, part of the American Heart Association, Dr. Vanhook said.
The registry will include data on stroke care given in the hospital, such as the use of clot-dissolving medications. It also will consider circumstances outside the hospital, such as whether the patient showed up at the hospital in his or her own car or an Emergency Medical Services vehicle.
The data will help public health officials identify system weaknesses, such as a lack of access to emergency transportation services or overcrowding in the ER waiting room, Dr. Vanhook said.
“We’re looking for: How can we help? What are the barriers to putting those things into place?” she said.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Tennessee, as well as in the United States, after heart disease and all cancers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stroke survival rates in Tennessee are poor compared to the rest of the nation. Tennessee ranks 48th in terms of stroke mortality, Dr. Vanhook said.
East Tennessee State University’s College of Public and Allied Health will start the statewide registry at a cost of $30,000, compared to the $500,000 it would have cost the state health department to get the program going, Dr. Vanhook said.
The university can utilize faculty members, graduate students and volunteers to create and maintain the database, but the state would have had much greater hiring and labor expenses, Dr. Vanhook said. The project coordinators hope to get federal funding in the future.
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