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How hospitals are improving heart attack care, survival

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Surgeons operated at the Cardiology Hospital in Lille, northern France, on April 2, 2013.
PHILIPPE HUGUEN | AFP | Getty Images

There's been a quiet reinvention of heart attack care that's making big strides in saving patients from serious heart damage, Gina Kolata wrote recently in The New York Times.

Two heart experts joined MPR News' Kerri Miller to talk about advances in care and what can be improved.

From The New York Times:

Leading cardiologists had despaired of reaching a national goal set by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association of getting this done for at least half of heart attack patients within 90 minutes of arrival at a hospital. Often it took more than two hours for blood to flow to a patient's heart again.

Now, nearly all hospitals treat at least half their patients in 61 minutes or less, according to the most recent data from the American College of Cardiology. At Yale-New Haven Hospital, where half the patients used to have to wait at least 150 minutes before their arteries were opened, the median time is now 57 minutes. At the Mayo Clinic and at major academic centers like New York-Presbyterian Hospital, it is 50 minutes.

"We've been advocating for getting our act together and moving quickly for literally two decades," said Dr. Sharonne Hayes, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic. "What has really happened is we put the systems in place to achieve this and when you have a little success it makes everybody get on board."

The time for care dropped when all sides of the system coordinated: from recognition and speed on first contact with a paramedic or emergency room to transfer to hospitals with the technology required for proper care, said Dr. Chet Rihal an interventionalist and the chairperson of the Cardiology Department at Mayo Clinic.

In order to continue improving survival and prevention of heart damage, potential heart attack victims need to take action more quickly.

One caller told his heart attack survival story and explained how his own denial led to delayed care:

If you think you're having a heart attack, Hayes and Rihal said it's best to call 911 rather than getting a ride to a nearby emergency room. Paramedics can start immediate treatment when they arrive and also transport you quickly to the best facility for heart care.