Growth of Regional Acute Stroke Systems of Care in the United States in the First Decade of the 21st Century
Background and Purpose—States and counties in the US began implementing regional systems of acute stroke care in the first decade of the 21st century, whereby emergency medical services systems preferentially route acute stroke patients directly to primary stroke centers. The pace, geographic range, and population reach of regional stroke system implementation has not been previously delineated.
Methods—We performed a review of legislative archives, internet and media reports, consultation with American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and Centers for Disease Control staff, and phone interviews with state public health and emergency medical service officials from each of the 50 states.
Results—The first counties to adopt regional regulations supporting routing of acute stroke patients to primary stroke centers were in Alabama and Texas in 2000; the first states were Florida and Massachusetts in 2004. By 2010, 16 states had state-level legislation or regulations to enable emergency medical service routing to primary stroke centers, as did counties in 3 additional states. The US population covered by routing protocols increased substantially in the latter half of the decade, from 1.5% in 2000 to 53% of the US population by the end of 2010.
Conclusions—The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a remarkable structural transformation in acute stroke care: by the end of 2010, over half of all Americans were living in states/counties with emergency medical service routing protocols supporting the direct transport of acute stroke patients to primary stroke centers. Additional efforts are needed to extend regional stroke systems of care to the rest of the US.
- Received March 20, 2012.
- Accepted March 26, 2012.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.