ACC/AHA release performance, reperfusion therapy measurement

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NEW ORLEANS—The American College Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) 2008 Task Force has published new Performance Measures' Statement on Performance Measurement and Reperfusion Therapy, which clarifies issues in the measurement of reperfusion therapy for patients with STEMI, which are being concurrently launched with the AHA Scientific Sessions.

While the appropriate and timely use of reperfusion therapy has improved substantially over the past decade, the Task Force said that significant quality gaps of the process of care persist. Proper measurement is critical to the assessment of hospital and health system performance and to identify targets for quality improvement.

The document provides a perspective on the evolution of the current measures, a justification for the approach and suggests additional measures needed to provide a more comprehensive assessment of care.

The document acknowledged the remaining controversy about the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the measures, and the determination of when measurement stops. Considerations in choosing how to construct the measure are discussed and specific recommendations are made to strengthen the current approach.

The major points addressed in this document include:

  • Acute reperfusion therapy—either with fibrinolytic therapy or PCI—is one of the most important treatments for patients with STEMI.
  • ACC/AHA guidelines recommend that fibrinolysis be provided within 30 minutes of first medical system contact and that primary PCI be provided within 90 minutes of first medical system contact for patients presenting with STEMI.
  • The goals of the reperfusion performance measures are to provide a quantitative assessment of this important process of care; introduce accountability for performance in providing timely reperfusion; to improve the quality of care; and to reduce adverse outcomes of patients with STEMI.
  • The workgroup supports current efforts by CMS and The Joint Commission to simplify the current ECG interpretation data elements to the extent possible, acknowledging that it must provide adequate guidance to non-clinical abstractors in identifying possible candidates for acute reperfusion.
  • An additional measure that includes patients who are transferred from one hospital to another for the purpose of receiving reperfusion should be developed and implemented.
  • An exclusion that accounts for patient-centered reasons for delaying reperfusion therapy is clinically necessary.
  • Systems providing reperfusion therapy should synchronize all devices involved in establishing time landmarks in the reperfusion measures to an external standard.
  • After consideration of the relative benefits and limitations of the various approaches, the workgroup supports a measure that focuses upon the time of first device use rather than the time of restoration of flow or the time of other "upstream" events (e.g. time to first angiography).
  • The time to PCI for patients who are transferred for reperfusion should be reported separately from those who are not transferred.
  • In cases where a patient has a contraindication to reperfusion therapy, the clinician does not have the option of considering fibrinolysis rather than transfer, even if the transfer will be delayed.