Background: Care gaps for stroke lead to preventable disability and deaths. The Victorian State Government implemented a programme of employing clinical Facilitators on a fixed-term basis for up to 3 years (2008–2011) in eight hospitals to improve stroke care. The Facilitators were to establish stroke units where absent, implement evidence-based management protocols and provide staff education within an agreed work plan. Aim: To determine if the Facilitator role was associated with improved stroke care and to describe factors supporting or mitigating enhancements to care. Methods: A mixed methods design was employed with historical control using patient-level audit data (pre-Facilitator: n = 600; post-Facilitator: n = 387) and qualitative data from independently conducted semistructured interviews with hospital staff, including clinicians, executives and facilitators (n = 10 focus groups; 75 respondents). Results: Stroke units, clinical pathways and outpatient clinics for managing transient ischaemic attacks (TIA) were established. Compared with the pre-Facilitator period, significant increases in patient access to stroke unit care (53% vs 86%, P < 0.001) and intravenous thrombolysis (2% vs 9%, P < 0.001) were achieved. Hospital staff reported that the Facilitator was integral to system improvements by fostering communication, encouraging team motivation and cohesiveness and increasing interest in stroke care. Ongoing barriers included limited resources to operate TIA clinics effectively, staff turnover requiring ongoing education, inconsistency in compliance with protocols and, in some hospitals, the need for formalised medical leadership. Conclusion: Fixed-term employment of Facilitators was effective in positively influencing stroke care in hospitals through a range of change management strategies where stroke-specific expertise had been previously limited.
- clinical facilitator
- health policy and outcomes research
- health services research
- quality improvement
- stroke care