mexican-american_after-strokeA new five-year study, funded with a $14 million award, will examine whether long-term post-stroke care will benefit North Carolina stroke patients.

The study is scheduled to begin next year and is expected to reach at least 9,000 patients.

Pamela W. Duncan, P.T, Ph. D., professor of neurology and senior policy advisor for innovations and transitional outcomes at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will lead the research.

“Stroke patients are at very high risk of complications once they leave the hospital. They often have physical deficits that make falls a common occurrence and there are cognitive problems that make easy tasks like filling a weekly pill dispenser impossible,” said Duncan, who is also an American Heart Association volunteer.

Residents of North Carolina are 20 percent to 40 percent more likely to die of stroke than those living in other parts of the country, according to researchers, who expect their work will help standardize post-stroke care.

“At this moment, there are no standards for the quality of stroke care after hospital discharge. We are confident that this large-scale study will allow us to set these standards by showing an improvement in function and quality of life, the outcomes most important to patients,” said Cheryl D. Bushnell, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Baptist Stroke Center and a co-investigator in the study.

Researchers will compare patients getting stroke treatment as they are discharged home to those receiving comprehensive stroke services after they return home.

Nurse practitioners or physician assistants will coordinate discharge services and help transition patients from hospital to home. Within two weeks of hospital discharge, they will work with patients and caregivers to develop individual care plans.

A trained community coordinator will work with local organizations to ensure that recovering patients and caregivers receive necessary services and support.

The research provides an “extraordinary opportunity” to advance post-stroke care, according to Wayne D. Rosamond, Ph.D., study co-investigator and professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A group of 51 hospitals in the North Carolina Stroke Care Collaborative registry and faculty from Eastern Carolina University School of Medicine’s Center for Health Disparities in Greenville, North Carolina and the Duke University School of Nursing in Durham, North Carolina, will also assist in implementing the study.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Initiative, an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 through the Affordable Care Act will fund the research.