Gold Plus Award for Stroke Care

11/11/11 — St. Mary’s Health Care System has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The award recognizes St. Mary’s commitment and success in implementing excellent care for stroke patients, according to evidence-based guidelines.

This is St. Mary’s second consecutive Gold Plus award for stroke care, the first being awarded in 2010. In addition, St. Mary’s has been certified as an Advanced Primary Stroke Center since 2004 by The Joint Commission.

To receive the award, St. Mary’s achieved 85 percent or higher adherence to all Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Quality Achievement indicators for two or more consecutive 12-month intervals and 75 percent or higher compliance with six of 10 Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Quality Measures, which are reporting initiatives to measure quality of care.

These measures include aggressive use of medications, such as tPA, antithrombotics, anticoagulation therapy, DVT prophylaxis, cholesterol reducing drugs and smoking cessation, all aimed at reducing death and disability and improving the lives of stroke patients.

“With a stroke, time lost is brain lost,” said Don McKenna, St. Mary’s President and CEO. “The Get With The Guidelines–Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award demonstrates St. Mary’s commitment to being one of the top hospitals in the country for providing aggressive, proven stroke care. We will continue with our focus on providing care that has been shown in the scientific literature to quickly and efficiently treat stroke patients with evidence-based protocols.”

“St. Mary’s is to be commended for its commitment to implementing standards of care and protocols for treating stroke patients,” said Lee H. Schwamm, M.D., chair of the Get With The Guidelines National Steering Committee and director of the TeleStroke and Acute Stroke Services at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “The full implementation of acute care and secondary prevention recommendations and guidelines is a critical step in saving the lives and improving outcomes of stroke patients.”

Get With The Guidelines–Stroke uses the “teachable moment,” the time soon after a patient has had a stroke, when the patient is most likely to listen to and follow the healthcare professionals’ guidance. Studies demonstrate that patients who are taught how to manage their risk factors while still in the hospital reduce their risk of a second stroke or heart attack.

Through Get With The Guidelines–Stroke, customized patient education materials are made available at the point of discharge, based on patients’ individual risk profiles. The take-away materials are written in an easy-to-understand format and are available in English and Spanish. In addition, the Get With The Guidelines Patient Management Tool gives healthcare providers access to up-to-date cardiovascular and stroke science at the point of care.

“The time is right for St. Mary’s to be focused on improving the quality of stroke care by implementing Get With The Guidelines–Stroke,” said H. McCord Smith, M.D., who co-directs St. Mary’s Stroke Center with C. Van Morris, M.D. “The number of acute ischemic stroke patients eligible for treatment is expected to grow over the next decade because of increasing stroke awareness and a large aging population.”

In addition to providing care for ischemic stroke, St. Mary’s provides state-of-the-art neurosurgical care for people suffering hemorrhagic stroke. St. Mary’s other stroke-related services include emergency care with “door to needle” times for tPA that consistently beat national guidelines, neurological critical care and dedicated neurological nursing units, intensive inpatient rehabilitation at St. Mary’s Center for Rehabilitative Medicine, St. Mary’s Neurological Specialists, home health care services, outpatient rehabilitation, St. Mary’s Wellness Center, and St. Mary’s Stroke Support Group.

According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is the #4 cause of death and the #1 cause of long-term disability in the United States. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds; someone dies of a stroke every four minutes; and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.


About St. Mary’s:
Founded in 1906, St. Mary’s Health Care System is a not-for-profit Catholic health care system whose mission is to be a compassionate healing presence in the communities we serve. Sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, St. Mary’s is built on a foundation of values that include excellence, compassion, integrity and reverence for each person. St. Mary’s focuses on neurosciences, cardiac care, orthopedics, general medicine/general surgery, women’s and children’s health, and gastroenterology. The system includes a 196-bed hospital, emergency care, intensive care, home health care/hospice services, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, assisted living, Alzheimer’s/dementia care, preventive care, state-of-the art diagnostic and therapeutic care and a growing network of physician practices. St. Mary’s is proud to be the official health care provider for the University of Georgia Athletic Association and the first hospital in the Athens area to receive the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval for stroke care, diabetes care, heart failure care, knee replacement surgery and spine surgery. For more information, visit St. Mary’s website at

About Get With The Guidelines
Get With The Guidelines® is the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s hospital-based quality improvement program that empowers healthcare teams to save lives and reduce healthcare costs by helping hospitals follow evidence-based guidelines and recommendations. For more information, visit