Kentucky Office of Rural Health awarded cardiac arrest grant

By Michael McGill

The Kentucky Office of Rural Health (KORH) has been awarded a three-year, $750,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to improve out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest survival rates among residents of rural counties served by the state’s 27 designated critical access hospitals. The University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health, in Hazard, serves as the federally designated KORH.

The funding — which is provided through the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program — will enable agencies across the state to participate in the Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (CARES), a national database that collects cardiac arrest data from EMS agencies and hospitals in order to track performance over time and measure the quality of patient care. Communities can enter their local data, generate reports and compare their performance to other local, state and national statistics. Only two states that border Kentucky — Illinois and Ohio — are current statewide subscribers; Louisville is a subscriber at the community level.

In addition, the grant will support KORH-led public health efforts to improve responses to sudden cardiac arrest incidents in Kentucky’s rural communities by increasing CPR readiness and raising awareness about the access to and availability of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). The chances of surviving an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest are significantly improved when, prior to the arrival of trained first responders, bystanders perform CPR and defibrillation. Kentucky was one of just eight states to receive the EMS-related funds.

“This is a project that’s really been needed for some time in rural Kentucky and across the state,” said KORH director Ernie Scott. “Kentucky’s rural counties have the highest cardiac death rates across the commonwealth. But, there’s no system currently in place in Kentucky for collecting data about those cardiac arrest events, linking that data to all of the medical professionals who have contact with cardiac arrest patients — 911, fire department-based first responders, ambulance services and hospitals — and identifying patient outcomes.”

Scott continued, “Our participation with CARES will rectify that. We’ll now be able to collect and analyze basic data about cardiac arrests throughout all of Kentucky so that the state’s EMS administrators and medical directors can better determine which elements of the response system are working properly, which are not and how they might better improve processes and performance. And, on top of that, making sure that community members are trained in CPR and know the locations of AEDs in their communities can only help in improving survival rates among sudden cardiac arrest patients.”

Kentucky’s 27 critical access hospitals, which operate in rural areas and have 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds, are located across 26 counties.

Key partners for the project include the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services, Kentucky Hospital Association, Kentucky Rural Health Association, Kentucky Ambulance Providers Association and the American Heart Association.

-Michael McGill is the Rural Project Manager at the Kentucky Office of Rural Health.