Talk with healthcare providers anywhere in the nation, and it doesn't take long before a common sense of purpose emerges—a dedication to the best possible patient outcomes. It's particularly true in cardiac medicine.
“We're invested in the cardiac health of our community,” says Elaine Walker, program director of the hospital's Heart and Vascular Institute at Commonwealth Health Regional Hospital of Scranton. “We want to make sure that we're staying on top of evidence-based medicine and offer the service lines our community needs.”
This commitment has been the inspiration behind noted quality improvement and accreditation programs offered through the American Heart Association (AHA). For decades, an impressive roster of volunteers—some of the world's most respected cardiovascular and stroke physicians, nurses, researchers, EMS personnel, educators and administrators—have designed and championed evidence-based systems of care that streamline time-critical procedures and protocols into consistent care models to save more lives.
Across the nation, hospitals have embraced standards of excellence driven by performance data registries and rigorous accreditation programs. Coveted accreditation for heart attacks, chest pain, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and cath labs not only help improve patient outcomes, they nurture healthy communities while improving hospital bottom lines.
“There are a lot of motivators for focusing on quality through accreditation,” says Christine McIntyre, executive director of Cardiovascular Services at Baptist Health Lexington in Lexington, Kentucky. “Readmissions are clearly a quality-of-care issue and an integral part of the larger vision for a more effective healthcare system. Hospitals have a financial incentive with the Affordable Care Act because they are financially penalized for excessive readmissions. But accreditations also address other aspects of quality care that help us increase bed capacity, avoid penalties, facilitate transparency and most importantly, improve the health of our whole population.”
Cardiovascular Center of Excellence Accreditation
To help hospitals optimize their performance while providing patients with optimal care, the AHA and American College of Cardiology (ACC) have collaborated on a new capstone accreditation—the Cardiovascular Center of Excellence.
“A Cardiovascular Center of Excellence places the patient's health at the center of every decision,” says Robert McNamara, MD, an associate professor in cardiovascular medicine at Yale and volunteer for AHA quality initiatives. “It uses data to drive decision making, foster systems-of-care thinking and develop best practices based on evidence based guidelines. Just as importantly, it evaluates community needs and disparities in care.”
To be eligible for the Cardiovascular Center of Excellence (CVCOE) accreditation, hospitals must have chest pain accreditation, along with (or be working toward) two out of three additional cornerstone accreditations—heart failure, atrial fibrillation and cardiac cath lab.
“The capstone achievement will help Baptist Health Lexington tie all our individual accreditations together,” says McIntyre. “It's a natural step for us to reinforce and build upon our existing accreditations, our quality improvement efforts and focus on becoming a cardiovascular system of care.”
Becoming a Cardiovascular Center of Excellence
As the first care facility in the nation to receive cath lab accreditation, Commonwealth Health Regional Hospital of Scranton has a long-standing commitment of cardiovascular excellence. In September, the Pennsylvania hospital also became the first to achieve the prestigious CVCOE designation.
“CVCOE is a capstone accreditation that ties all the service lines together,” says Walker. “A facility may have individual accreditations, but does that make it a center of excellence? This accreditation allows us to provide more comprehensive care to all cardiovascular patients.”
With a more cohesive system of care, hospitals can reduce short term readmissions, increase reimbursements, reduce patient's length of stay, improve patient satisfaction and build a culture of accountability.
Now for a limited time, the American Heart Association is offering an early adopter track for CVCOE accreditation. Hospitals with robust cardiovascular programs that do not currently have all three cornerstone accreditations may apply for CVCOE accreditation using the early adopter track.
“We begin with a Readiness Assessment to determine the hospital's reasonable likelihood of meeting CVCOE equivalency requirements,” says Joyce Wright, manager for Hospital Accreditation Programs at AHA. “Benchmarks in three areas—General Facility Demographics, Readiness Assessment Standards and Population Health Statement—provide a snapshot and lay the ground work for a collaboration between the hospital and AHA.”
Hospitals can download the full eligibility document by visiting www.heart.org/cardiacaccreditation and clicking on the purple “Review Eligibility Requirements” button.
“CVCOE accreditation reinforces your organization's mission about the care of cardiovascular patients,” adds Walker. “The level of engagement among our staff has grown. It definitely nurtures a more collaborative culture.”