ANAHEIM, CALIF. – An American Heart Association program aimed at streamlining care of patients with ST-elevation MI resulted in a dramatic near-halving of in-hospital mortality, compared with STEMI patients treated in hospitals not participating in the project, James G. Jollis, MD, reported at the American Heart Association scientific sessions.
He presented the results of the STEMI ACCELERATOR 2 study, which involved 12 participating metropolitan regions across the United States, 132 percutaneous coronary intervention–capable hospitals, and 946 emergency medical services agencies. The ACCELERATOR 2 program entailed regional implementation of a structured STEMI care plan in which EMS personnel were trained to obtain prehospital ECGs and to activate cardiac catheterization labs prior to hospital arrival, bypassing the emergency department when appropriate.
Key elements of the project, which was part of the AHA’s Mission: Lifeline program, included having participating hospitals measure their performance of key processes and send that information as well as patient outcome data to the National Cardiovascular Data Registry’s ACTION–Get With The Guidelines registry. The hospitals in turn received quarterly feedback reports containing blinded hospital comparisons.
The impetus for the STEMI ACCELERATOR 2 project was simple: “Every day in the United States, people die because of the fragmented nature of emergency cardiac care,” declared Dr. Jollis, a cardiologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
Dr. Jollis and his coinvestigators worked to obtain buy-in from local stakeholders, organize regional leadership, and help in drafting a central regional STEMI plan featuring prespecified treatment protocols.
The STEMI ACCELERATOR 2 study was carried out in 2015-2017, during which 10,730 patients with STEMI were transported directly to participating hospitals with PCI capability.
The primary study outcome was the change from the first to the final quarter of the study in the proportion of EMS-transported patients with a time from first medical contact to treatment in the cath lab of 90 minutes or less. This improved significantly, from 67% at baseline to 74% in the final quarter. Nine of the 12 participating regions reduced their time from first medical contact to treatment in the cath lab, and eight reached the national of goal of having 75% of STEMI patients treated within 90 minutes.
The other key time-to-care measures improved, too: At baseline, only 38% of patients had a time from first medical contact to cath lab activation of 20 minutes or less; by the final quarter, this figure had climbed to 56%. That’s an important metric, as evidenced by the study finding that in-hospital mortality occurred in 4.5% of patients with a time from first medical contact to cath lab activation of more than 20 minutes, compared with 2.2% in those with a time of 20 minutes or less.
Also, the proportion of patients who spent 20 minutes or less in the emergency department improved from 33% to 43%.
In-hospital mortality improved from 4.4% in the baseline quarter to 2.3% in the final quarter. No similar improvement in in-hospital mortality occurred in a comparison group of 22,651 STEMI patients treated at hospitals not involved in ACCELERATOR 2.
A significant reduction in the rate of in-hospital congestive heart failure occurred in the ACCELERATOR 2 centers, from 7.4% at baseline to 5.0%. In contrast, stroke, cardiogenic shock, and major bleeding rates were unchanged over time.
The ACCELERATOR 2 model of emergency cardiovascular care is designed to be highly generalizable, according to Dr. Jollis.
“This study supports the implementation of regionally coordinated systems across the United States to abort heart attacks, save lives, and enable heart attack victims to return to their families and productive lives,” he said.
The ACCELERATOR 2 operations manual – essentially a blueprint for organizing a regional STEMI system of care – is available gratis.
Discussant Larry A. Allen, MD, applauded the investigators for shifting the focus of quality improvement efforts in STEMI care away from a fixation on door-to-balloon time. That measure, while important, constitutes only one element in the STEMI care system. The clock really ought to start ticking at the time of first medical contact. And emergency department waiting time is an important indicator of coordination of care between paramedics and hospitals.
Dr. Allen, a cardiologist at the University of Colorado, Denver, said the ACCELERATOR 2 model has been successful because it is consistent with a fundamental principle of implementation science as described by Carolyn Clancy, MD, Executive in Charge at the Veterans Health Affairs Administration, who has said it’s a matter of making the right thing to do the easy thing to do.
Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, founder of the Get With the Guidelines program, predicted that the success of this program will lead to a ramping up of efforts to regionalize and coordinate STEMI care across the country. “I hope and anticipate that the AHA will take and run with the ACCELERATOR 2 model and adopt this into Mission: Lifeline, hoping to make this the standard approach to further improving care and outcomes in these patients,” said Dr. Fonarow, professor and cochief of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a video interview.
Simultaneous with his presentation at the AHA conference, the results of STEMI ACCELERATOR 2 were published online in Circulation (2017 Nov 14; doi: 0.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032446).
The trial was sponsored by research and educational grants from AstraZeneca and The Medicines Company. Dr. Jollis reported having no financial conflicts of interest.
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