Years ago, my father had a heart attack. Worried that our big, protective dog wouldn’t let the ambulance team into the house, he lay in bed and waited for my mom to return from running errands, rather than calling 911.
He didn’t realize how important speed was in minimizing the damage a heart attack causes.
The US death rate from coronary heart disease fell by 38 percent from 2003 to 2013, and faster emergency treatment was a key reason.
Hospitals across the country have slashed “door to balloon” time—the time from when a patient enters the hospital to when doctors clear the blockages in the patient’s arteries to get blood flowing to the heart again. They’ve done this with no new medical discoveries, no new technology and no new payment incentives. They simply uncovered existing best practices and spread the word about them.
It started when Medicare assembled data on the time it took hospitals across the country to get blood flowing after heart attacks. The results varied widely, but the worst news was that the times were not getting any better year-to-year.