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Nov 18, 2013

Registry Programs Improve Quality of Care and Outcomes

Lessons learned from the American Heart Association’s “Get With The Guidelines” program.

There’s no question that research is a crucial aspect of health care. Without research, we would have little understanding of the treatment and prevention of diseases. But as useful as studies are, there’s a difference between gaining knowledge about a disease and actually applying that knowledge in the real world. And we’ve been lacking national registries that allow us to understand the quality of care being provided—until recently.

In 2000, the American Heart Association piloted a suite of programs called “Get With the Guidelines,” which incorporated hospital-wide trainings and clinical registries to improve both quality of care and outcomes. Based on the pilot’s success, the American Heart Association expanded the program nationally in recent years and today, almost 2,000 hospitals participate in the program. The American Heart Association established four national databases that collect information on specific heart conditions—heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and cardiac arrest—and to date, hospitals have already contributed nearly 5 million patient records to this database.

In their recent policy statement published in Circulation, the American Heart Association took a step back to evaluate how this new program has improved health care and the impact has been enormous.

One of the program’s biggest achievements is that it provides a benchmark for hospitals to compare themselves to in real-time. Using the registries, hospitals can see how their individual institution is doing in treating certain conditions like stroke compared to other hospitals. By doing so, they can see where they might be falling short and what they can do to improve treatment. Conversely, if a hospital is doing particularly well in a certain area, they can provide useful information about what they’re doing right that’s improving the care they’re providing.

The registry also provides a snapshot of how we’re doing nationally in treating cardiovascular diseases, which can improve both quality of care and outcomes. For example, we can see that from 2006 to 2011, rates for administering aspirin within 24 hours of hospital admission during a heart attack improved, which tells us that quality of care is improving. We can also see that in other cases, we may not be doing as well in providing optimal care per current guidelines, which indicates a need for improved training and education.

Ultimately, the goal of “Get With The Guidelines” is to generate new knowledge that furthers our understanding of diseases, improving outcomes and quality of care. The information gathered through “Get With The Guidelines” and similar registries established by the American College of Cardiology are invaluable. Not only do these programs allow us to see how we’re doing today in cardiovascular care, they identify areas for improvement so that we can work towards providing better treatment in the future.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is "quality of care?"
  • When providers use the phrase “quality of care,” they’re referring to how well actual medical care is compared to established guidelines or standards. Improving quality of care is a major goal in the health care field, as improved care will improve patient outcomes.

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