How well a patient recovers after having a stroke is directly linked to the quality of medical care the person receives after leaving the hospital, says Michael Frankel, MD, professor of neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine, and chief of neurology at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. Thanks to a recent $500,000 grant from the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Frankel and other researchers will soon learn more about how well patients recover after a stroke, their quality of life, and ways to improve outcomes after hospitalization.
The grant is specifically designed to study stroke outcomes, track information, and improve quality of life for stroke survivors. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it starts to die.
Emory University was the only site in the country selected to spearhead the two-year study. Based at Grady Hospital, the project will focus on ongoing data collection to help improve quality of care for study participants. Overall, Dr. Frankel hopes that hospitals across the country will use newly developed online tool to improve care for patients after stroke discharge.
"This is a groundbreaking study because no one has ever created a prototype tool for data collection to improve the quality of stroke care after hospital discharge," says Dr. Frankel, principal investigator of the project. "This project is focused on post-hospital care that including inpatient rehabilitation, medical care, functional recovery, medication adherence, and quality of life and survival."
Dr. Frankel plans to enroll 1,000 patients in the study. Patients will be followed for one year by telephone and office visits. Along with Grady, University Hospital in Augusta and Candler and St. Joseph's hospitals in Savannah will participate in follow-up care by identifying stroke patients and enrolling them into the study. The goal is for all four hospitals, which represent approximately 10 percent of the stroke patient population throughout the state, to contribute to the same database and create quality improvements.
"One of the other aspects that we're going to focus on is whether or not there are racial differences in stroke outcomes," Dr. Frankel adds. "We will look at racial and socioeconomic differences in outcomes after stroke. We hope to learn a bit more about why those differences exist so that we can improve the care in communities that are disproportionately affected by stroke."
Dr. Frankel hopes that with more frequent contact after discharge, patients will learn to adhere to medical therapy and follow up with their physicians through clinical appointments.
"We realize that there is a continuum of care that goes beyond the hospital period," he says. "This project is the first attempt at linking what happened in the hospital with what happens after patients are discharged to assure good continuity and quality of care."
According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the nation's No. 3 killer and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability. Every 45 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. The ASA estimates that approximately 700,000 Americans will have a stroke this year.