Tag Archives: treatment

Stroke Treatment Inadequate in Many Cases

By ThinkReliability Staff

Research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2014 showed that although 81% of people in the United States lives within an hour’s drive of a hospital equipped to treat acute stroke, only 4% received tPA, a drug which can reduce disability if given within 3-4 hours of the first stroke symptom, and the only drug approved by the FDA to treat stroke.

Researchers reviewed the records of 370,000 Medicare stroke claims from 2011.  (Annually in the United States, 800,000 people suffer from stroke.)  The low percentage of patients receiving the recommended (and only) treatment for stroke is a significant impact to both the patient safety goal (because of the disability that could be avoided with proper treatment) and the patient services goal, because so many patients are not getting adequate treatment after a stroke.

There are many challenges involved in administering tPA within the recommended time frame.  Administration is ideally done within 3-4 hours of the first stroke symptoms, but faster is better.  As the study‘s lead author, Dr. Opeolu Adeoye, M.D., M.S. states, “Every 15-minute delay in getting treatment increases the odds of that patient not being able to go home.”

Although 4 out of 5 patients live within an hour’s drive of a designated stroke center, a hospital which is equipped to treat stroke (and not all hospitals are), that still leaves almost 20% who aren’t.  The drug tPA can’t be administered before imaging confirms the stroke and that it is a non-bleeding-type stroke as administering tPA to patients suffering from a bleeding-type stroke can cause harm.  Even after a patient arrives at a stroke center, delays in imaging and treatment could increase the time before tPA is administered to outside the window.  The study also found that 60% of hospitals did not administer tPA to stroke victims, though it is the only recommended treatment for acute stroke.

Many potential solutions are being studied and implemented to reduce the risk of stroke after disability.

For patients: the best way to reduce the risk of disability from stroke is to prevent having a stroke in the first place.  About 80% of strokes are preventable and due to risk factors, such as smoking or obesity.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of stroke.  If you or a loved one suffers from a stroke, contact an ambulance, as the ambulance will be able to direct you to a designated stroke center.  If you are driving yourself, it’s worth it to go to a designated stroke center, even if that means “bypassing another hospital that isn’t set up to deliver the necessary therapy, ” says Dr. Adeoye.

For paramedics: because paramedics tend to see most stroke patients before they get to a medical center, the search is on for a drug that could be administered prior to imaging (unlike tPA) so that stroke treatment could begin prior to arriving at a medical center.  A study looked at administering intravenous magnesium in the ambulance, but found that it did not improve stroke-related disability.  However, if another drug can be found that would, researchers are hopeful, as the median time for receiving the stroke treatment by ambulance was 45 minutes after symptoms began, and 74% of patients began treatment within an hour.

For medical centers:  The American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association’s national quality initiative Target: Stroke℠ aims to reduce the time between stroke symptoms and treatment.  Since its initiation in 2010, the percentage of patients treated within 60 minutes or less from hospital arrival has increased from less than one-third to more than one-half.  Additionally, the average time from arrival to treatment dropped from 74 to 59 minutes. These faster treatment times have reduced the percentage of stroke patients who died in the hospital from 9.9% to 8.3%.  The improvements were seen in patients regardless of age, sex, or race.

Ideally, the implementation of these solutions – and many more that are in the works – will continue to reduce the risk of, and from, stroke.

To view the Outline, Cause Map and solutions related to inadequate treatment for stroke patients, please click “Download PDF” above.  Or click here to read more.

Promising New Leukemia Treatment

By Kim Smiley

One of the best things about the Cause Mapping method of root cause analysis is its flexibility.  For instance, root cause analysis is often associated with fixing problems, but Cause Mapping is also well suited for use when something positive happens.  Why would you bother to analyze something that isn’t a “problem”? Understanding why positive outcomes occurred might help you reproduce the success in other situations.

To better understand how this might work, check out this example that analyses a new treatment for leukemia that is showing excellent promise after the initial trials.  Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently published a study  outlining their success treating three leukemia patients with a novel treatment.  A year after treatment, two of the patients appear cancer free and the third patient’s cancer was reduced by 70%.  How did they accomplish this feat?

They drew blood from the patients and genetically modified their T cells (cells that normally serve as part of the immune system) to seek and destroy cancer cells.  Similar concepts have been tried in the past, but the previously modified T cells died out before they were able to destroy the cancer.  A different carrier, a harmless version of the HIV virus, was used to insert genes that told the T cells to multiple rapidly and target cancer cells.  A large batch of the modified T cells were grown and then injected back into the patients.  The patients endured intense flu-like symptoms while the cancers cells died out, but the other side effects have been minimal so far.

So how could a Cause Map help in this example?  It could be used in a number of ways to help others learn and apply lessons.  For somebody interested in the details of the specific cancer research performed, a detailed Cause Map could be created to better understand the intricate details of the technique so that it could be applied more efficiently to treatment for other cancers.  A person interested in how medical research is funded could create a Cause Map that details how this project was funded to learn how to fund their own work. On a larger scale, a Cause Map could be created to understand why certain areas of medical research are better funded than others and to ensure that we’re getting the biggest bang for our research bucks.

For this specific case, a Cause Map could be used to track information and record all relevant details in a simple, intuitive format.  This treatment method will require more intensive testing before it could hope to become standard treatment and having an easily understand method to record and organize all relevant data would be very useful.  Cause Maps can be created in as much detail as needed and they can be built to focus on whatever aspect of the problem is of interest.

To a high level Cause Map of this example, click “Download PDF” above.