(HealthDay News) – A comprehensive stroke care system that addresses patient needs from symptom onset through rehabilitation can reduce stroke-related death and disability, according to an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association policy statement published online Aug. 29 in Stroke.

Randall Higashida, MD, chair of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Coordinating Committee, and colleagues identified several key elements needed for stroke care systems to optimize patient care and management (from identification of stroke symptoms through rehabilitation) and effectively reduce stroke-related deaths and disability.

The committee recommends that public education programs be developed to improve awareness of stroke symptoms and the need to call 9-1-1 to get to the hospital quickly for treatment; to ensure emergency medical service responders can quickly assess patients and get them to the hospital with appropriate care within 15–20 minutes; and to establish protocols to optimize patient transfers both between hospitals offering different levels of care and within the different departments of a hospital. In addition, the recommendations encourage certification of stroke centers that follow treatment guidelines as well as the utilization of telemedicine, especially in rural areas, to ensure patients have 24/7 access to consultation and care.

“A fully functional stroke system of care that reduces stroke-related deaths by just 2–3% annually would translate into 20,000 fewer deaths in the United States alone and ≈400,000 fewer deaths worldwide,” the authors write.

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