A new study indicates the prognosis for stroke patients is rather dire, and that there is a need for improved after-care in order to help prevent deaths and hospital re-admissions.
The study included more than 91,000 stroke patients who were on Medicare. The patients were treated at 625 hospitals, and their average age was 79. The findings revealed that just over 14 percent of the patients died within 30 days of their stroke, and just over 31 percent died within 12 months. In total, nearly 62 percent of stroke patients were readmitted to the hospital or died within 12 months after their stroke.
These numbers show that the medical community needs to get a better grasp on the patterns, and causes, of deaths and readmission. Better strategies must be devised for after-care, when successful interventions can help reduce hospital re-admittance, as well as post-ischemic stroke morbidity and mortality.
Although patients with an average age of 79 are not the healthiest sample to work with, statistics show that nearly two-thirds of all stroke patients are at least 65 years of age – at which point they become eligible for Medicare. It is thought that the Medicare sample in this latest study is representative of the general stroke population over 65.
Although stroke patients are often severely disabled after their stroke, and although many of the patients have other severe medical conditions, many involved with the latest study admitted that improvements can be made in stroke care.
For instance, the hospital at which a stroke patient is treated can make a huge difference in the outcome of their health. The study found that just under 10 percent of stroke patients treated at the top-performing hospitals died within 30 days, but nearly 18 percent of stroke patients admitted to the worst-performing hospitals died. At the very least, it seems to make sense to study the practices of the best-performing hospitals and ensure that the worst-performing facilities are following suit.
BusinessWeek quoted the president of the American Heart Association, who said current guidelines concentrate on in-hospital care. New guidelines are being developed, however, to improve outpatient care after a stroke – for the specific purposes of reducing deaths and re-hospitalizations.
The study seemed to indicate that primary stroke centers must also improve their practices. That’s because no significant differences in readmission or death rates were reported at primary stroke centers, as compared to regular hospitals. Also, there was no improvement in the number of stroke deaths or re-admittances between 2003 and 2006, the time period from which the patient data was taken.
In short, the portion of the medical community that treats strokes needs to closely assess how it can put a dent in the amount of preventable deaths and re-hospitalizations caused by strokes.