What were the strategy conversations at Mercy leading up to this?
ANDRABI: There are about 800,000 new strokes every year. When you look at the total cost of care and disability for stroke, it’s about $36.5 billion. In our region, we find that people are developing strokes, for reasons that are not clear, at a younger age. Given some of that background, and the work we are doing with our clinically integrated network, we thought it was the best approach to deploy a mobile stroke unit that has the capability of reducing the amount of time that it takes between when the patient experiences symptoms to the time we can actually deliver treatment to the patient, and hopefully significantly impact outcomes.
What have you learned so far leading up to go-live in October?
ANDRABI: We learned from the people who have already done this work, so that we don’t have to design the system from scratch. That’s No. 1. No. 2: We also brought in the expertise, knowledge and learnings that we have had for the last 25-plus years with our helicopter system and our mobile ICUs into this thought process. And, No. 3: It’s good to have technology, but it’s really important to have the right people with the right skill sets to be able to do this work in the right manner. That’s why we’re making sure that we have the right staff.
What words of wisdom do you offer hospital leaders who are trying to improve stroke care?
ANDRABI: This is not necessarily right or appropriate for every hospital or every community. It obviously depends on the size and complexity of the work. Sometimes it’s more appropriate to partner with the right folks within your region. We don’t always need to duplicate or triplicate this work within a particular community. Also, when we look at heart attack treatment 20, 25 years ago, there was a lot of conversation about “time is heart.” The same conversation is going on right now, this being “time is brain.” For many of our communities, looking at stroke the very same way we have looked at acute myocardial infarction or heart attack will become the norm in the future.