Bristol Regional Earns Gold Plus Award For Stroke Care, Urges Patients With Symptoms To Act Quickly

Stroke Care AwardNational honors for Bristol Regional Medical Center's high-quality stroke care continue to accumulate, with the program recently achieving the highest designation of excellence from a well-respected national organization.

The hospital's Primary Stroke Center, where an experienced treatment team continuously improves lives, has earned the Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association. The award spotlights the center's adherence to treatment guidelines and quality measures to enhance quality of care.

Greg Neal, Bristol Regional's interim president, said recognition of this magnitude will provide an extra layer of comfort to patients and their loved ones who rely on the hospital for excellent stroke care.

"This is a tremendous honor for our stroke team, which is expertly led by Dr. Earl Wilson, and reflects our caregivers' skill and determination to ensure patients not only survive but recover fully so they can return to their day-to-day activities as soon as possible," Neal said. "Our outstanding group of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals deserve credit for the positive difference they make every day in our patients' lives."

The stroke team and Bristol Regional leaders celebrated this latest honor from the American Heart Association on Thursday, July 11. Jim Groover, director of quality improvement initiatives for the national organization in Georgia and East Tennessee, presented the award during a ceremony at the hospital.

To receive the Gold Plus award, the stroke center had to follow treatment guidelines in certain key measures, as outlined by the American Heart Association, 85 percent of the time for at least two consecutive years. The center also had to show 75 percent compliance with seven out of 10 self-selected quality measures.

"It is a pleasure to work with a group of medical professionals who are committed to producing the best outcome for our patients," said Dr. Wilson, a neurologist who is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and serves as the stroke center's medical director. "The preparation and delivery of care by our team has been exemplary for years, and it is gratifying to see our hospital's name recognized with the highest award possible in this program.

"Patients are experiencing a difficult time in their lives when a stroke occurs, but this recognition should continue to assure them and their families that they are in excellent hands in our center."

This is the latest honor the stroke center has received from the American Heart Association. The stroke center previously earned the Bronze in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and the Silver Plus in 2012.

Providing full neurological coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Bristol Regional's stroke center, the first in the region, is certified by The Joint Commission. A collection of neurologists, trauma experts, neurosurgeons and interventional radiologists supports the hospital's stroke program with innovative and exemplary care.

Bristol Regional is a founding member of the Appalachian Regional Stroke Center Network and provides expertise to member hospitals.

Bristol Regional also works hand in hand with The Rehabilitation Hospital of Southwest Virginia to ensure short-term and long-term patient success. That 25-bed hospital in Bristol, Va., is a partnership between Bristol Regional and HealthSouth Corp., which operates the facility. The rehabilitation hospital recently received its stroke rehabilitation certification from The Joint Commission.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted due to a clot or burst blood vessel. Medical professionals who staff the stroke center are focused on ensuring blood flow is restored to the brain as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence because a patient's recovery is longer and the brain's impairment is more permanent the longer the brain's tissue is deprived of blood.

During Thursday's event, Dr. Wilson reminded the community about the importance of patients following national protocol to act quickly if they are experiencing symptoms of a stroke.

An initiative supported by care providers across the country, including Wellmont Health System, provides a few simple tools to help people recognize potential stroke symptoms and know the best response. Known by its acronym F.A.S.T., they are:

Face - Ask the person to smile and check whether one side of that person's face droops.

Arms - Ask the person to raise both arms and see whether one drifts downward.

Speech - Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence to determine whether he or she can perform that task. Listen for slurred words.

Time - If any of these symptoms are evident, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately.

Other potential symptoms of a stroke are blurred or impaired vision, dizziness, loss of balance, severe headaches and numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body.

Dr. Wilson said patients can reduce their chances for a stroke by making lifestyle adjustments. These include keeping blood pressure under control, managing conditions such as an irregular heartbeat, moderating alcohol consumption, controlling cholesterol levels, exercising daily, decreasing fat and sodium and not smoking.

"We urge people to recognize the long-term impact to their health from a stroke and act promptly to receive appropriate care," Dr. Wilson said. "By calling 911 immediately, they are expediting the care process and enabling medical professionals in the ambulance to work quickly and collaboratively with caregivers in the hospital to optimize the chances for a successful outcome."

For more information, please visit www.wellmont.org.