Piedmont Medical Center's patient care has been recognized for the second time in three months by the Joint Commission.
The commission, which sets national health care benchmarks, accredited Piedmont Medical Center for its treatment of congestive heart failure - cases where the heart is too weak to pump blood to the body's other organs.
In January, the commission accredited Piedmont's stroke center.
Piedmont Medical Center is one of 29 hospitals nationwide to earn the advanced certificate in heart failure. Only one other hospital in the Charlotte region is accredited, Gaston Memorial in Gastonia, N.C. Only one other hospital in South Carolina is accredited, Trident Health Systems in Charleston.
"This is a difficult to obtain accreditation," said Dr. Harry Hicklin, an interventional cardiologist with Palmetto Cardiology who has practiced in Rock Hill and York County for 20 years. Getting the accreditation took a commitment from doctors, nurses, support staff and the hospital administration, Hicklin said.
More than 5 million Americans have congestive heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. It is the leading cause of death in Chester and Lancaster counties, according to 2008 data compiled by the state. It is the second-leading cause of death in York County, second to cancer.
Hicklin said Piedmont started an aggressive treatment program in March 2010 to "treat, educate and improve the day-to-day lives of people who congestive heart failure."
Piedmont's multidisciplinary Heart Failure Team consists of physicians, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, dietitians, social workers, case managers, pharmacists and physical therapists. The team develops treatment plans, provides patient care, and conducts follow-up visits for patients with congestive heart failure.
One of the key components the Joint Commission looked at during a Feb. 7 visit was Piedmont's educational efforts to change factors that affect congestive heart failure.
Education begins within 24 hours of admission, Hicklin said. Patients and their families learn the importance of taking their medication, reducing their salt intake, understanding the warning sides of failure and the importance of exercise and diet.
Twenty-four to 72 hours after discharge the heart failure team makes a follow-up visit. A second follow-up visit is conducted three to four weeks after discharge, said Hicklin. The education has resulted in a 15 percent drop in patients readmitted for congestive heart failure at Piedmont, Hicklin said.
The accreditation should give people comfort about the quality of care provided at Piedmont, said Charles Miller, the medical center's chief executive officer. "We can't take our eyes off quality, that is the centerpiece of our focus."
Hospitals must meet the American Heart Association's guidelines before seeking Joint Commission certification. Piedmont earned a gold rating, the highest grade from the AMA, in 2010.
Miller said the decision to seek Joint Commission accreditation is unrelated to Piedmont's quest to earn state approval to build a new hospital in Fort Mill. Piedmont is competing with Carolinas HealthCare System and Novant Health.
Carolinas HealthCare System and Novant Health operate hospitals in Charlotte and across the Carolinas. Novant also has hospitals in Virginia.
A decision by the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control on the Fort Mill hospital is not expected until late April or May at the earliest, Miller said.