The American College of Cardiology’s Platinum Performance Achievement award was given to Loyola Medicine for offering excellent care to heart attack patients. Heart attack patients get treated at a faster pace with a good rate of success at Loyola compared to other hospitals in Chicago.
It takes a median of just 54 minutes from the time a paramedic first contacts a patient until the patient is brought to Loyola and an emergency balloon angioplasty is performed. This is among the shortest times in the country. Loyola’s medical contact-to-balloon time is 18 minutes faster than the 50th percentile for all hospitals and eight minutes faster than the 90th percentile.
‘The hospital plays an indispensable role in treating heart attack patients as quickly and as effectively as possible.’
Loyola’s groundbreaking Heart Attack Rapid Response Team (HARRT) is on site at Loyola University Medical Center 24 hours a day seven days a week. Any time of day, the team is available to stop a potentially fatal heart attack by performing an angioplasty, which opens a blocked coronary artery. The team includes two cardiologists, two nurses and a cardiovascular technician.
Loyola was the first center in Illinois and remains one of the few hospitals in the country to have a heart attack response team in the hospital at all times. Most hospitals do not have such personnel on site during nights and weekends, so precious time is lost when the team has to be called in from home. This is especially true when staffers are delayed by bad weather.
“Since launching our HARRT program 10 years ago, Loyola has been at the forefront of providing emergency care to heart attack patients,” said John Lopez, MD, co-director of the HARRT program along with Fred Leya, MD.
During a heart attack, a blockage in a coronary artery stops blood flow to the heart. Heart muscle begins to die due to a lack of blood and oxygen. An emergency angioplasty can reopen the artery and restore blood flow, thereby preventing or minimizing significant damage to the heart. In many cases, a stent also is deployed to keep the artery open. The procedure does the most good if done within 60 minutes, a period known as the Golden Hour.
“Time is heart muscle,” Dr. Leya said. “The sooner we can open the artery, the better.”
While speed is essential in treating heart attacks, it’s not the only critical factor, said Verghese Mathew MD, director of Loyola’s division of cardiology. “During the rapid assessment of the patient prior to the procedure, the team’s expertise may determine whether or not another condition exists that may be mimicking a heart attack, requiring other evaluation or treatments,” Dr. Mathew said. “Each of the board-certified interventional cardiologists on Loyola’s Heart Attack Rapid Response Team is highly skilled, with subspecialty training and extensive experience.”
Loyola works closely with local emergency medical services to reduce the time to treatment. Paramedics are trained to recognize heart attacks and perform EKG exams en route to the hospital. Results are transmitted ahead to the emergency department. By the time a patient arrives at Loyola, the ambulance EKG has determined whether the patient is experiencing a life-threatening heart attack. (The medical term for such a heart attack is ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI.)
“Our EMS partners do a superb job,” said Mark Cichon, DO, chair of Loyola’s department of emergency medicine. “They have undergone advanced training in heart attack response and have equipped ambulances with state-of-the-art technology. They play a vital role in our continuing effort to treat heart attack patients as quickly and as effectively as possible.”
The Platinum Performance Achievement Award recognizes Loyola’s commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients, as outlined by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association clinical guidelines and recommendations. To receive a platinum award, a hospital must demonstrate sustained high performance for at least eight consecutive quarters. The hospital must be a top performer in measures such angioplasty times, smoking cessation counseling, cardiac rehabilitation and providing aspirin on discharge. Its heart attack treatment also must be essentially error-free.
Loyola is the only academic medical center in Chicago, and one of only 203 hospitals in the country to receive a Platinum Performance Achievement Award.