Stroke patients treated at hospitals participating in a guidelines-based program are more likely to be discharged home and less likely to die within 30 days and one year, according to a new study.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, showed that patients who received treatment at hospitals participating in Get With The Guidelines-Stroke were 10 percent more likely than those in non-participating hospitals to be discharged home, rather than to a rehabilitation center or other facility.

Furthermore, 30 days and one year after discharge, patients from participating hospitals were 7 percent to 8 percent less likely to have died.

The findings mean that participating hospitals would discharge 12 more stroke patients home for every 1,000 patients than non-participating hospitals, and 34 fewer patients would have died within one year.

Get With The Guidelines-Stroke, established by the AHA/American Stroke Association in 2003, helps hospitals provide stroke patients with the latest, most effective treatment for stroke. More than 1,600 hospitals have registered to receive patient management toolkits, access to workshops, decision support and many other resources.

“We know that in the past the Get With The Guidelines-Stroke program was associated with improved processes of care, such as appropriate medications and other interventions to prevent complications,” said Sarah Song, M.D., lead author of the study and an assistant professor in neurology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “Now we know that this improved care translates into improved clinical outcomes.”

For the study, researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service for 366 hospitals participating in Get With The Guidelines-Stroke and 366 non-participating hospitals. About half of the 173,985 Medicare stroke patients in the study received treatment at hospitals participating in the program.

A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by fatty substances or a blood clot, interrupting blood flow to the brain. Without immediate treatment, cells in the brain begin to die, resulting in brain damage, paralysis or even death.

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, killing someone about every four minutes. The F.A.S.T. acronym is used to help people recall key symptoms of a stroke: face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911.