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VA Healthcare System Responses to National Stroke Care Reorganization

Damush TM, Miller KK, Plue LD, Schmid AA, Myers L, Graham GD, Williams LS. VA Healthcare System Responses to National Stroke Care Reorganization. [Abstract]. Stroke; A Journal of Cerebral Circulation. 2014 Feb 1; 45(Suppl 1):AWP334.


Aims: In 2011, the VA released the Acute Ischemic Stroke (AIS) Directive which mandated reorganization of acute stroke care, including self-designation as Primary (P), Limited Hours (LH), or Supporting (S) stroke center. We conducted interviews across stroke centers to understand barriers and facilitators faced in response. Methods: The final sample included 38 (84% invited) facilities: 9 P, 24 LH, and 5 S facilities. In total, 107 persons were interviewed including ED Chiefs, Chiefs of Neurology, ED Nurse Managers/Nurses and other staff. Semi-structured interviews were based on the AIS Directive. Completed interviews were transcribed and analyzed using Nvivo 10. Results: Barriers reported were a lack of personnel assigned to coordinate the facility response to the directive. Data collection and lack of staff were likewise commonly reported as barriers. For thrombolysis measures, the low number of eligible Veterans was another major barrier. LH and S facilities reported some unique barriers: access to radiology and neurology services; EMS diverting stroke patients to nearby stroke centers, maintaining staff competency, and a lack of stroke clinical champions. Some solutions applied included cross training X-ray technicians to provide head CT coverage, developing stroke order sets and templates, and staff training. Larger facilities added a stroke code pager system and improved upon its use, and established ED nurses to become first alerts for an acute stroke patient. LH and S facilities also responded by attempting to secure additional services and by establishing formal transfer agreements to improve Veteran tPA access. Conclusions: The AIS Directive brought focused attention to reorganizing and improving stroke care across a range of facility types. Larger VA facilities tended to follow established practices for organizing stroke care, but the unique LH designation presented challenges to consistently organize systems. Since Veterans have financial interest in presenting to a VA facility, ongoing work to organize VA care and to improve access to thrombolysis at smaller VA facilities is needed. This protocol was supported by Genentech Inc. Protocol ML 28238, VA HSRD QUERI Rapid Response Project 11-374, and the VA Stroke QUERI Center.

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