Mission: Lifeline Invests in Rural Health

MGN Online

The American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate, announced a $5.3 million initiative to enhance systems of care, save lives, and improve outcomes for heart attack patients in rural Nebraska, called Mission: Lifeline.

The lead funder for this investment in Nebraska is The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, one of the nation’s largest foundations, providing a grant of $4.1 million to the American Heart Association for the initiative. Other current funders include the Fund for Omaha through the Omaha Community Foundation, the Ron and Carol Cope Charitable Fund, and Aaron and Rachel Wagner.

Lifeline will be implemented over three years, launching Tuesday, in collaboration with Nebraska’s health systems, emergency medical service (EMS) providers, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health, and others. Lifeline helps identify the gaps that lead to slower and less effective patient care, and with the providers in the state, closes those gaps through change in protocols and processes, and also in providing resources such as life-saving equipment. The funding for this initiative will enhance existing efforts in Nebraska, including a recent state appropriation for EMS equipment.

“This initiative represents a significant investment in Nebraska’s healthcare system, especially in our rural areas,” said Dr. Joseph Acierno, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “We are pleased to be partnering with the American Heart Association and the Helmsley Charitable Trust, and our hospitals and EMS services across the state to provide these important, lifesaving services to Nebraskans.”

Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans have the most serious type of heart attack known as an ST-elevated myocardial infarction, or STEMI, in which blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart. Unless the blockage is eliminated quickly, the patient’s health and life are at serious risk. Currently, around two-thirds of STEMI patients fail to receive the best available treatments to restore blood flow. Mission: Lifeline seeks to save lives by closing the gaps that separate STEMI patients from timely access to appropriate treatments.

Although Mission: Lifeline is focused on improving the system of care for patients who suffer from a STEMI each year, improving that system will ultimately improve care for all heart attack patients. According to statistics provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, cardiovascular diseases (including stroke) are the second leading cause of death in Nebraska.

“We are truly grateful to the Helmsley Charitable Trust for this grant,” said Michael Schnieders, CEO of Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney and a member of the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate board of directors. “Along with the Mission Lifeline initiative, it will help Nebraska to better coordinate heart attack care, which will mean better outcomes for patients, and more lives saved. Time is muscle when someone is having a heart attack, so getting a patient proper treatment faster, especially in rural areas, is crucial. Better collaboration among healthcare providers improves care for patients, and Mission: Lifeline provides these important communication and collaboration tools to our first responders and hospitals to improve care for all Nebraskans.”

In collaboration with stakeholders representing hospitals, individual ambulance services and the state of Nebraska, the project will enhance many critical elements of an optimal STEMI system of care: a system-wide data tool for quality measurement and improvement; ongoing medical provider training and STEMI education; coordination of protocols for rural EMS and hospital personnel; regional plans for rapid transport and/or transfer of patients; and a public education campaign on heart attack signs and symptoms and the need to activate the 9-1-1 system. Targeted funding will be provided to assist hospitals and ambulance services in acquiring essential ECG equipment and training.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust and the American Heart Association launched Mission: Lifeline in South Dakota in July 2010 with a commitment of $8.4 million from the Trust. From 2011 through 2013, the Trust also generously committed additional funding for Mission: Lifeline in three other states: $4.4 million for North Dakota, nearly $6 million for Wyoming, and $4.6 million for rural Minnesota. With the recent award for rural Nebraska, the total commitment from the Trust for Mission: Lifeline has reached $27.5 million.