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Chest Pain Center wins re-accreditation

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Area residents experiencing chest pain or any other coronary-related condition now have a chance to receive immediate care and better outcomes thanks to a team of specialists and the most advanced technology. MUSC’s Chest Pain Center (CPC) at Ashley River Tower (ART) earned national re-accreditation as a comprehensive and dedicated center for the diagnosis and treatment of chest pain. The program offers a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses and other clinicians matched with advanced diagnostic technology that allows the evaluation and treatment of patients.
Members of the multidisciplinary acute coronary syndrome quality team are a guiding force to the CPC.
The service offers comprehensive, coordinated care with specialists from MUSC’s emergency department, radiology, heart & vascular and laboratory medicine. The team is ready to respond to any patient who presents with chest pain or any other cardiovascular problem including heart failure, heart attack, arrhythmias, and vascular problems and an ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).
The CPC, which opened in February, has operated as a virtual chest pain center working with staff since September 2005. In the treatment of chest pain and heart attack, time equals muscle. The longer one waits for treatment after a heart attack, the more heart muscle dies. The door-to-balloon time, considered a standard for success, measures the response time of the clinical team once a patient is admitted with chest pain. MUSC boasts a door-to-balloon time of 65 minutes compared to the national average of 80 minutes.
MUSC  joins more than 1,500 facilities across the country accredited by the Society of Chest Pain Centers. More impressive, MUSC is among the ranks of privileged programs that are comprehensive chest pain centers.
“We’ve created this dedicated focus facility to provide high-level, acute care evaluations for patients with cardiac abnormalities and chest pain,” said Peter Zwerner, M.D., CPC co-medical director. “We’re able to focus our faculty, highly-trained staff and growing technology in one place to provide these services.”
Patients who  are admitted with chest pain at the emergency department and ART will receive the same pathway to care whether they arrive by ambulance or walk-in admissions. Once admitted, they have access to one of the  most advanced imaging facilities—nuclear imaging, CT, echocardiography—to help evaluate a patient’s condition. After completing an evaluation, a patient can either be admitted (inpatient), undergo further testing, be discharged, or scheduled for further tests (outpatient).
The CPC teamed up with the Heart & Vascular Center and other specialty services such as the cath lab to not only improve their door-to-balloon time ratio but also reduce a typical 48-72 hour hospital stay to as little as six hours. This improvement represents a turnaround in practice as well as a cost savings and peace of mind for patients, according to Zwerner.
“We’ve done a remarkable job in reducing the time a patient first presents at the hospital to actual procedure,” said Gary Headden, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine and CPC co-medical director. “We’ve achieved national recognition for our ability to rapidly treat patients with life-threatening conditions.”
At the heart of its success is the CPC nursing staff led by Pamela Smith, R.N., CPC nurse manager. The 13 nursing staff members are experienced, senior-level nurses who receive extra training related to the management of chest pain observation patients. Four registered nurses are  certified in emergency nursing by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. With a focus on patient care and preventive medicine, their expertise expands beyond patient care and includes patient education and lifestyle and knowledge of new drugs, therapies and techniques to help identify high-risk patients.
Zwerner expects the CPC to grow along with continuing breakthroughs in medical technology that will help in evaluating and treating patients with cardiac abnormalities.
Headden, Eric Powers, M.D., medical director of MUSC's Heart & Vascular Center, and Natalia Corica, outcomes manager at the Heart & Vascular Center, are involved in developing standards of care to  communities, including organizing STEMI care throughout the state. Headden and Powers are part of several statewide efforts to help coordinate systems with cutting-edge technology and resources to  connect patients to primary care facilities like MUSC.
“We want to concentrate on providing the best things for our South Carolina heart patients,” said Powers.
Capt. Todd McGeorge is the training officer with Charleston County Emergency Medical Services. During CPC’s assessment, he spoke with accreditors about their procedures and interaction with STEMI patients.
“MUSC’s Chest Pain Center is a good resource for Charleston area residents,” said McGeorge. “MUSC's program is the best in the area. We’re eager to participate and contribute to a program that improves the standard of care for patients.”
The CPC team is not resting on its laurels. Currently, its focus continues with improving patient care, research and educational opportunities for providers and residents. It's also working on achieving Cycle 3 accreditation, which begins in January. Accreditors were impressed in how MUSC was already meeting many of the criteria to achieve this.

Nov. 21, 2008

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