News Release: Emory Healthcare, School of Medicine

Feb. 2,  2009

Emory Hospitals Earn Highest Level of Chest Pain Accreditation

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Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown have earned the highest designated Chest Pain Center Accreditation by the Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC).       

Both Emory hospitals are the only accredited chest pain centers in metropolitan Atlanta to be accredited with PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention), which indicates a higher level of emergency cardiac care services. Most commonly known as coronary angioplasty, PCI is a therapeutic procedure to treat the narrowed coronary arteries of the heart found in coronary heart disease. The designation is a distinguishing attribute since PCI is now the preferred treatment for heart attack patients.

"Achieving the highest level of chest pain center accreditation at both hospitals is a tremendous accomplishment for Emory Healthcare, and a significant win for the communities and patients we serve," says John T. Fox, president and CEO of Emory Healthcare. "Being the first chest pain center in metro Atlanta to attain this PCI accreditation further distinguishes Emory as a leader in cardiac care throughout the Georgia and the Southeast."

According to Samuel Shartar, RN, CEN, unit director of Emergency Services at Emory University Hospital, the detailed and involved process to attain accreditation drove interdisciplinary collaboration across both hospital campuses – leading to improved outcomes for  patients. 
"With the emergency department and cardiology teams working together, we have decreased our door-to- balloon times so they are consistently under 90 minutes, which is now the regulatory standard," says Shartar "These processes surrounding acute Myocardial Infarctions has been made more efficient and safe by joining our services to provide the best care possible in the region, as well as improving all the care throughout the continuum. In fact, Emory's efforts were recognized by the accrediting Society of Chest Pain Centers as being instrumental in helping that organization to create an accreditation tool and site visit that all facilities will go through in the future. We have helped to set the standard others will follow."

Key areas in which an accredited Chest Pain Center must demonstrate expertise include:

  • Integrating the emergency department with the local emergency medical system
  • Assessing, diagnosing and treating patients quickly
  • Effectively treating patients with low risk for acute coronary syndrome and no assignable cause for their symptoms
  • Continually seeking to improve processes and procedures
  • Ensuring Chest Pain Center personnel competency and training
  • Maintaining organizational structure and commitment
  • Having a functional design that promotes optimal patient care
  • Supporting community outreach programs that educate the public to promptly seek medical care if they display symptoms of a possible heart attack

Hospitals accredited by the SCPC have been shown to perform better in the heart attack core measures established by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as compared to non-accredited hospitals, according to a national study led by Michael Ross, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine and medical director for observation medicine, Emory University School of Medicine. His findings were first reported in the July 2008 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology. 

"The number of accredited hospitals has steadily risen during the past five years, but no studies until now have actually compared clinical outcomes or compliance with core measures for the management of heart attacks in patients served by hospitals with accredited or non-accredited centers," says Ross.

"The bottom line, however, is if all hospitals performed core measures at levels reported by those with accredited chest pain centers, more heart attack patients would be treated with aspirin and beta blockers," he says. "Increased adherence to the core measures might also lead to more heart attack patients receiving emergency angioplasty within 120 minutes – the so-called “door to balloon” benchmark used at the time of reporting."

According to Kate Heilpern, MD, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine in Emory’s School of Medicine, hospitals fully equipped to treat heart attack patients will help prevent many unnecessary deaths. Individuals should recognize the symptoms when he or she – or someone nearby – is experiencing a heart attack, and take quick action to secure medical attention.

"Seconds and minutes absolutely matter, and by recognizing the signals of a heart attack and calling 9-1-1, you will have a fighting chance to get yourself or a loved one to a center that will be equipped and staffed to handle such emergencies," says Heilpern.

"Calling 9-1-1 is without question the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment, because emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment the second they arrive at the scene, and can transmit critical patient data ahead to a hospital in advance of the patient’s arrival," Heilpern continues. "The chain of survival from pre-hospital 9-1-1 to the emergency room to the catheter lab is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at our institutions. In these instances, when EMS suspects a heart attack, getting the patient to the right place at the right time with the right providers to do the right thing definitely optimizes patient care and enhances quality and outcome."

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 600,000 deaths annually attributed to heart disease. More than five million Americans visit hospitals each year with chest pain. The goal of the Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC) is to significantly reduce the mortality rate of these patients by teaching the public to recognize and react to the early symptoms of a possible heart attack, reduce the time it takes to receive treatment, and increase the accuracy and effectiveness of treatment.

The SCPC was established in 1998, and involves a collaboration of physicians, nurses and health care experts from cardiology, emergency medicine, nuclear medicine and clinical pathology. Through reviews of published research and expert consensus, SCPC developed criteria for the accreditation of chest pain centers.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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