AHA: Quality of STEMI Care Has Stalled, Needs Improvement

Richard Mark Kirkner

October 19, 2021

Following up on its 2007 initiative to improve care for people who have ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the American Heart Association has issued a policy statement that includes a host of recommendations to further overcome barriers to optimal care for this most severe type of heart attack.

The statement recommends steps for designing what the writing committee calls "the ideal STEMI system of care" for patients who have these severe heart attacks.

The focus of the policy statement is the AHA's Mission: Lifeline national initiative to coordinate and improve the quality of care to patients with STEMI, which was introduced in 2007. Since then, the number or participating hospitals has increased from 485 to 857, now covering more than 85% of the U.S. population, noted the new statement, published online in Circulation.

"Bringing STEMI referring hospitals, STEMI receiving centers and emergency medical services [EMS] together in the development of local and regional systems of care within the AHA's Mission: Lifeline program has led to significant improvement in time to treatment and outcomes for patients with STEMI," Alice K. Jacobs, MD, lead statement author and vice chair for clinical affairs in the department of medicine at Boston Medical Center and a professor at Boston University, said in an interview.

"Yet," Jacobs added, "opportunities exist to further improve the coordination of care and address remaining barriers to providing ideal care. Moreover, Mission: Lifeline systems of care have been extended to other time-sensitive cardiovascular disorders including stroke and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest."

The statement itself noted, "Although there have been significant improvements in patients with STEMI receiving guideline-recommended care, progress has slowed during the past few years." From 2008 to 2012, a number of key quality care measures at participating hospitals had improved markedly. For example, door-in-door-out (DIDO) transfers improved from a median of 76 to 62 minutes (P < .001).

However, from 2012 to 2019, with more hospitals participating, while many key measures improved, a few either plateaued or worsened slightly. Median DIDO time, for example — again, with more hospitals participating, compared with the earlier dataset — went from 45 in 2012 to 48 in 2019, according to AHA data.

Key recommendations aim to impact and improve hospital care for patients with STEMI, Jacobs said. "In addition to avoiding patient delay at the onset of recognized symptoms of a heart attack, accessing 911 and following EMS destination protocols, the prehospital activation of the cardiac catheterization lab and providing a 911 response for interhospital transport as well as direct-to-cardiac-catheterization-lab transport bypassing the emergency department when appropriate would all impact and improve hospital care."

Other key recommendations of the statement include:

  • Increasing public awareness of heart attack signs and symptoms and the importance for calling 911.

  • Addressing post-MI care, including use of evidence-based practices for cardiac rehabilitation and even getting insurance companies to encourage cardiac rehab through incentives.

  • Engaging rural hospitals by leveraging telemedicine to expedite percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) and by developing systems for treatment protocols and rapid transport among facilities.

  • Tearing down financial barriers with a global reimbursement model that encompasses each stop in a patient's journey through the care system: the referring hospital, receiving center, EMS transport and transfer, and ancillary services.

The statement also took into account improving disparities in the quality of care women with STEMI receive. "It has been reported that women with STEMI may have less typical symptoms than men and arrive later [delay longer] than men after symptom onset," Jacobs said. "Educating the public and all members of the health-care team about issues specific to women will be helpful in improving care in women. Of note, STEMI systems of care have been shown to reduce sex and age disparities in care."

The statement also addressed implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that PCI should remain the dominant treatment for patients with classic STEMI. "Patients must be reassured that appropriate precautions have been implemented by EMS and hospital to protect them and health care workers from COVID-19 infection," the statement noted.

Jacobs has no relevant relationships to disclose.

Circulation. Published online October 13, 2021. Abstract

This article originally appeared on MDEdge.com.

For more from theheart.org | Medscape Cardiology, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.