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With a goal of minimizing delays in patient care for cardiovascular issues, The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association announced a new facility certification program in April of this year.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), cardiovascular disease (CVD) was identified as the leading cause of death of 873,613 people in the US in 2019.  CVD kills more individuals than those killed by all forms of cancer and chronic lower respirator disease combined. There are an estimated 605,000 new heart attacks and 200,000 recurrent heart attacks each year.

Because heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US, and because outcomes can be dramatically impacted by fast, high level medical care, The Joint Commission offers several certifications to publicize critical care in the community as well as motivate healthcare providers and facilities to reach for and maintain higher levels of cardiac care for their patients.

For many patients with an acute cardiac issue or chronic CVD, quick response, facility capabilities, and physician expertise can be the difference between life and death.  A delay in treatment in a hospital emergency department can lead to unrecoverable cardiac damage.  

The new certification program is called “Comprehensive Heart Attack Center (CHAC),” and was created out of clinical practice guidelines and research recommendations in the journal Circulation.  The certification is intended as a “system of care for all time-sensitive cardiovascular disorders in an effort to minimize delays in patient care, including emergency medical services’ routing protocols to transport patients to the most appropriate level of care.”

Notes Dr. Alice Jacobs, with Boston University Medical Center, “The recent recommendations from the American Heart Association provide new guidance on how best to care for patients experiencing the deadliest types of heart attacks. These are the heart attacks where survival is measured in minutes – and rapid delivery of guideline-directed care is essential for survival.”

In addition to providing facility data, certification as a CHAC requires a hospital or care facility provide the following services:

  • 24/7 on-site coverage for percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI) and other cardiac surgical care
  • A dedicated multidisciplinary team offering a full range of advanced support for critically ill patients, including those in cardiogenic shock and cardiac arrest (cardiogenic shock occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood as needed)
  • Provide standard performance measures, such as an ECG within ten minutes of patient arrival and other measures in less than 90 minutes

The new CHAC certification joins other certifications offered by The Joint Commission. These measures provide critical services to those who are ill or who have not yet suffered their first heart attack.  If the certifications work as intended, fewer patients may suffer long term damage or death while waiting for an available cath lab or a provider to arrive at the hospital in time to make a difference.

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