Heart Association Takes Quality Improvement Program to Middle East

AHA is expanding the reach of its Get With the Guidelines Program to improve the ways that hospitals in the United Arab Emirates treat heart disease and stroke. The program could help UAE meet an ambitious World Health Organization goal.

A quality improvement program of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) called Get With the Guidelines, which is well established in the United States but has not been implemented elsewhere, is expanding to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Get With the Guidelines gives hospitals professional consultation, workshops, and webinars on quality improvement. Since the program was launched in 2002, more than 2,000 hospitals have implemented at least one module, and more than 6 million patients have benefited, according to an AHA statement. Variations of the program are in use in China and Brazil.

“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death on the planet,” and heart failure is increasing globally, said Dr. Sidney Smith, a past president of the AHA and a global expert in quality improvement science and programs. Many countries are looking for ways to meet the World Health Organization goal to reduce premature death and disability from noncommunicable diseases by 25 percent by 2025, and reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease and stroke can help meet that goal, he explained.

The AHA worked with the Emirates Cardiac Society to launch the program in the UAE.

“As the country looks to position itself at the forefront of healthcare provision in the region, it’s critical that we bring in the right tools that will help curb the effects of the noncommunicable diseases—especially cardiovascular disease—and improve outcomes for both patients and providers,” said Dr. Abdullah Shehab, Emirates Cardiac Society president, in the AHA statement. “We’re confident that Get With the Guidelines will play a key role in improving the health of our community.”

The program helps hospitals and providers learn the correct treatment, translate guidelines into practice, and report their results. It uses an online, interactive assessment and reporting system, which tracks a hospital’s performance in delivering guidelines-based treatment. Hospitals collect data and monitor their compliance with guidelines-based therapies to improve care.

Key to the program’s success is that it sets up teams—including doctors, nurses, and administrators—to look at performance. “It gets more than just physicians involved in making sure patient care is what it should be,” Smith said.

The teams meet every month to look at outcomes and whether the care delivered is based on evidence. They “begin to ask questions, such as why a patient didn’t receive a recommended medication,” Smith said, and then they can increase their use of recommended strategies.

One recommendation is to make sure the patient has a follow-up appointment when he or she leaves the office. “That simple step is very important in reducing re-hospitalization,” Smith said.

Get With the Guidelines also allows hospitals to exchange information. If a hospital isn’t performing as well as its peers and looks into why, it might find that problems such as a lack of certain equipment or a failure to educate patients about smoking could be to blame, Smith said.

Another benefit of expanding the program is “greater dialogue among physicians internationally,” he said. For example, hospitals in China use an app called WeChat to follow up with patients. Sharing such ideas and experiences helps AHA members.

Middle East healthcare providers are “very interested in having the best healthcare system possible,” Smith said. To fight cardiovascular disease, “they want a program of proven quality that works.”


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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