Every year, more than 250,000 individuals experience an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the most deadly type of heart attack caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it is critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication.
Missouri laws provide the Department of Health and Senior Services the authority to create designated STEMI centers that meet standards to provide definitive and timely treatment for STEMI patients. The law also stipulates that “patients who suffer a STEMI shall be transported to a STEMI center.” The law goes on to state that a healthcare professional shall instruct ambulance personnel to transport a patient to the closest designated STEMI center, even when the hospital is located outside of the ambulance service's primary service area.
“Patients taken to non-specializing nearby hospitals often face critical delays in treatment because they need an initial evaluation before being triaged to a specialized hospital, such as Freeman,” said Paula F. Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “This more integrated and coordinated approach will help a greater number of people survive and recover from a heart attack.”
To earn the Level I STEMI Center designation, Freeman completed an extensive and detailed certification process that included paramedics, nursing staff, physicians, cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, system quality analysts and administration. The hospital had to demonstrate not only that it has the providers and resources needed to treat STEMI patients, but that its physicians and staff have met and will continue to meet strict standards of education and demonstrate proficiency in the latest proven STEMI treatments.
The Level I STEMI Center designation is part of the state’s Time Critical Diagnosis System, which identifies hospitals specially equipped to treat STEMI, stroke and trauma patients and improves both the speed and quality of care. The system coordinates the 911 response system, ambulance services and hospitals in a comprehensive, integrated approach. Participation in the new system is voluntary for hospitals.
“When treating heart attacks, the most important care decisions need to take place before the patient arrives at the hospital,” said Dr. Robert Stauffer, Freeman Cardiologist. “Every second counts when it comes to salvaging heart muscle and saving lives.”
In addition to providing outstanding patient care, Level I STEMI Centers must also provide community education. Compliance with state standards requires a STEMI center to place emphasis on educating healthcare workers and the public about recognition, prevention and treatment of STEMI. Freeman healthcare professionals have presented programs on STEMI in businesses throughout the area. Through programs like Freeman Screen Team, Freeman Advantage and support groups, Freeman continues to lead the way in empowering the public with life-saving information. With the Level I STEMI Center designation, Freeman is setting the standard for excellence in heart care throughout the four-state area.
About Freeman Health System
Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2018, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. The Leapfrog Group awarded Freeman the highest grade possible in the Spring 2018 Hospital Patient Safety Score. With more than 300 physicians on staff representing more than 70 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com.